Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction

November 6, 2019

I’m a tad worried that I may now be on every international watch list, known to mankind.

Let’s start with the facts:

Secret Service SUV

Whilst editing an action scene involving a Hummer – I love Hummers. Mean looking cars, veritable, vehicular beasts that roar – I needed to know what its bumper was made from. I searched the internet, only to discover that the Hummer had actually ceased production ten years ago. My scene was modern day and the individuals involved would drive something more recent. Picturing those big black SUVs, you see in many a Hollywood action-thriller, I searched again, this time enquiring as the make and model of the SUVs driven by the secret service.

Yes, I know what you’re going to say, but hey, smarty-pants, hindsight’s a wonderful thing.

Several sites later, I ironically settled on leaving it generic – it’s now nothing more than a black SUV.

At night, I usually leave my laptop in sleep mode, so that upon opening, it springs to life but when I returned to it the next morning, I was met with a black screen. I tapped a few times, checked the power cable and feared the worst. Rebooting it flagged a report from Apple informing me that due to an ‘Unauthorised access attempt,’ my security software had shut down for protection. I checked the scan reports but there was no evidence of this, nor anything quarantined. I pulled up the search history from the night before, in a bid to ascertain which of those sites might have triggered this alert but eerily every site relating to that previous night’s specific search had disappeared.

The plot thickens…

I live in the countryside, and that night, as I walked the dogs, I noticed three drones in the sky. It’s not that uncommon to see the odd one out here at night, but three at once, definitely is. Even more unusual is to be pursued by one. It tracked me as I left my house in pitch-black darkness, all the way down our country lane, and back. Childishly perhaps, just as I re-entered my house, I offered it a single-fingered goodnight. Nothing more than it deserved. I went to bed and thought nothing more of it.

Until that was, the next morning…

UAV by ZullyC3P
CC-BY-SA 4.0

When my slightly freaked-out mother phoned to tell me, she thought she’d been followed home by a drone after leaving our house. She’d come for supper and had left just before I’d taken our dogs out and so, important to note, was oblivious to any of the events above. She’d noticed the drone when getting into her car and was then decidedly alarmed to see it still lurking above her when she reached her own house.

Coincidence or not? We may never know. As writers, we spend an inordinate amount of time in our over-imaginative minds, but I like to think I’m an intelligent woman and I’m definitely not a conspiracy theorist. However, in this instance, I think the dots do join, at the very least, to form a very bold question mark.

Which brings me to fiction:

This got me thinking. I’d not done anything wrong and I had nothing to hide but it still felt a tad sinister. So, if not the internet, how, or where, as unpublished, debut authors, should we go to research novels potentially involving sensitive data, people, places, and or events? Clearly, common sense should prevail but that doesn’t always get you the answers you seek. Needless to say, my library doesn’t stock books on the kind of topics I need.

If I were a best-selling author of international renown, I have no doubt that doors would be opened, the moment I knocked, but as an unknown, aspiring author, there have been times in my writing, when I don’t even know which doors I should be knocking on, let alone how to open them.

My teen protagonist has been raised in a military community, trained by ex-special ops personnel and seriously knows his stuff. How else therefore, can I ensure this makes for credible reading, other than to really do my homework in and around the subject matter?

Alas, if the powers that be, in their quest for the truth, wish to dig deeper still, they may be even more alarmed. For not only have I researched how to bring down a helicopter (make and model specific), as well as various forms of military weaponry, their uses, assembly and operation, but also how to build a bomb, truth be told, several different types of bomb and indeed, how to trigger them… Yes, this time, you don’t even need to say it… I’m an idiot, but my sole intention in conducting this type of research, has only ever been, is, and will continue to be, the achievement of fictional credibility.

Up until now, naïvely or otherwise, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this process. I don’t have a military background, nor do any of my relatives or close friends. Thus, my research has opened my eyes to a world that exists far beyond my own. They say new authors should write about what they know but let’s face it, the highs and lows of Human Resources in corporate telecoms, is hardly the stuff of teenage fantasy.

What then, is the moral of this story? Beware the perils of writing? Be careful what you write, or indeed, how you research it? I don’t know. Take away from it what you will but the issue here is not about Big Brother, it’s about writing.

As writers, we write the books we want to read. For a truly, satisfying reader experience, it must feel credible, whatever the subject matter. Readers are astute beings. They expect nothing less. Might we be having this discussion if I’d written about fairies? Probably not, but I know less about those than I do about guns.

Ah yes, back to guns.

If by chance then, you are from one of those illustrious government agencies, I want you to know, I fully respect the brave and honourable service you perform in safeguarding our nation, both here and overseas. I’m not here to question what you do, or indeed, how or why. The world is irrefutably, a safer place with you in it. So, if you do want to read, listen, watch, track, or hack my progress, knock yourself out, but you should probably know, our paths may very well cross again, because where those guns are concerned, I’m sticking to them. I am going to keep on writing.

Oh, and I owe you an apology for the one-fingered salute. I’m usually a far more polite person than this might suggest, but… you did stalk me, along a deserted, country lane, in the dark, and late at night… just saying.

Since you’re here, I wonder if I could ask a small favour. As I inadvertently, appear to have knocked on your door, do you think, when you have a spare moment, you know, while rummaging through my file drawers, you might have a little read of my novel and let me know if I’ve got all those specialist little details, i.e. my FACTS right? It’s just that… well, I’m guessing you might just be the kind of people who would know.

Cheeky ask, I know, but it really does come from a good place, a genuine wish to write truly, credible FICTION.


Thank you!




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