The Relatability Test

One question has been asked of me in every interview I’ve given. I’ve heard the same question asked of other authors at book launches, readings, and conferences. “Where do you get your ideas?”

Folks assume my day job as a cyber crime fighter is one of my sources. That’s true. I know a lot about technology. Like, a LOT. It’s easy for me to wax philosophic about criminal tactics that rely on or abuse everything from computers to refrigerators. Because I’m so close to it, though, I have to be careful about going too deep when I write fiction.

As a long-time fan of crime fiction myself, I love capers and explorations of people doing things that are out of character. My stories contain elements of both. In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible for a criminal escapade to avoid technology or leaving digital breadcrumbs behind. In that regard, my day job has given me 20 years (and counting) of ideas. My challenge is making cyber criminal mischief relatable. That’s where my characters come in – putting ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances where they’re driven to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.

For instance, take a short story I’ve just completed. I wanted to write a multi-character heist-slash-buddy story. Step one was the crime itself. That part was easy – I know lots of ways to both craft and catch a robbery, based on my years of fighting such crimes. What was much harder was taking the technical details and jargon out of the way of the story. To accomplish that, I made the main character a technical novice. Events unfold through her eyes. That was a calculated move to force myself to simplify and figure out ways to make readers care – about her, about the caper, and about the outcome.

I wrote the story with a particular publishing goal in mind. I’ll find out this summer if I succeeded in passing the relatability test.

One comment

  1. Reliability…. that is the test. And taking your expertise and translating it into the minds of the readers….. can’t wait to read the final product!

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