The Generosity of Strangers…

… cannot be overvalued. It is one of life’s treasures that propel us onward despite ourselves.

My first thriller flew onto the page. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Four months from start to finish. Done. Even when I was asked to rewrite it, discarding then rethinking one-third of the original, I completed the job in only two months. Bang. Zoom. Perhaps it was because I’m reasonably versed in matters Middle Eastern and lived in northern Israel a while; in a plot involving those cultures, I am in my element.

The sequel, however, has become a struggle. I know the story I want to tell, at least in broad brushstrokes, but the details keep derailing me. My overriding concern is plausibility. Realism lurks in the details, and because I haven’t lived several aspects of the story, I agonize over omitting crucial elements, the absence of which can leave a reader pointing and crying, “Fraud!”

Even in the first book, such concerns sometimes bared their fangs. My protagonist is a television reporter, but when I created him I had yet to visit a TV station, let alone live amid network politics. I tried to tour several, but soon learned television stations won’t let the public walk through unless they’re part of an elementary school field trip. Then one day, out of the blue, one of my clients volunteered that her cousin was an important personality at an Albuquerque television station—major network, no less. She contacted him on my behalf and within weeks we were having dinner together. He validated a key premise of my story, then, without my asking, a few weeks later he escorted me through the station, highlighting how a story progressed from the street to the tube, validating much I previously had been forced to invent.

My current thriller deals with dirty bombs, the drug trade and auto theft. While it’s a convoluted plot, my biggest problem was not knowing how local law enforcement interfaces with other local or federal agencies when the crimes cross County or State lines. Then, as if by magic, a client of mine who works for the Sheriff’s Department offered her assistance. Two weeks later, I found myself having lunch with the Bureau Chief of Basic Training at the Academy of Law Enforcement in Santa Fe, the institution that prepares every officer in the State.

As we sat down to lunch, I was worried he would think I was wasting his time, but after answering all my questions about all my story’s issues, the Bureau Chief made a surprising offer. He told me if months from now more questions arise or additional issues crop up, he would make himself available yet again. Furthermore, he said he has three instructors who are especially informed. One, for example, had spent forty years with the FBI and had investigated the Twin Towers incident, the Oklahoma City bombing and several embassy bombings. He promised to make any or all of these instructors available, should I need to consult.

This sort of assistance is beyond price and only now am I beginning to understand the value of networking. I’m still taken aback, but grateful for every minute of what I have been given.



7 responses to “The Generosity of Strangers…

  1. Raymond – I wanted to thank you for your blog – your’s – got me going on mine, and although it is in it’s barest form – you are the first I’ve told about it!! Thanks in advance for your critique!! – Tom Patterson – Class of 66′ – St. Gen’s –

  2. People are inherently kind and want to help. I firmly believe this.

  3. I’ve learned through the years that experts actually enjoy being asked about their area of expertise. I think it makes them feel good that an author is so committed to getting it right.
    Great post, Raymond!

  4. Wow–this is great! Now I just need to get someone to escort me around an Indian reservation. (After a catastrophic disaster…)

  5. Eden, Deborah, that’s what I’ve been learning, although when I began, I had no idea what to expect. After all, I am still unpublished. This all the more increases my belief in my fellow man and I’m certain it will affect the tone of my writing.

    As for you, Tom, thank you for stopping by. I hope this will not be your last visit, and I’ve already subscribed to your blog. Good luck with it,

  6. Deborah (Blake), that can happen here in New Mexico. Several pueblos allow outsiders to visit. One—the Acoma—is matriarchal, so you would be better treated and more respected than moi. 🙂

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