Monday, January 18, 2010
Calling All Art Thieves!
Writing What you DON'T Know (and can't really figure out how to find out)
This is the second book in a row where I am finding myself leaving blank spots because there is a large gap in my knowledge base and I just can't wing it because too much depends on getting it right.
Anyway... The two central characters in DENIABILITY are a Psychiatrist and a 'Spy' (sort of). The Psychiatrist I can do a fair job with. It's a job I considered having until my freshman chemistry lab taught me that people in pre-med are a nasty lot (by and large—I know a few docs who are fabulous, and must note the exceptions) and under no circumstance did I want to spend twelve years with them (as a collective). I've watched shows, read books—probably most importantly, PAID ATTENTION.
Spies though... while spies interest me from an entertainment perspective, all the movies and books show spies... SPYING! I need to see a spy being TRAINED to spy. In fact REALLY what I need is to see a Bounty Hunter, or maybe a (non-religious) terrorist of sorts be trained. Those are the pieces this book is missing and could really benefit from me getting just right.
With CONSPIRACY, it is the art thieves. I know HOW they are stealing art—that isn't too difficult... well, stealing the art would be difficult, but these guys have a system—my imagination supplied that one alright, so they're set on that. But this organization requires a relatively large group of intertwined people. To top it off, about 75% of them need to have realistically Romanian names, so from the bathtub I am having trouble conjuring what to call my various people...
The Problem Clarified
So what does one do when encountering something important to a plot that you've worked out that is unlikely to have a few nice, clean hits on the internet? My instinct is I need to find a couple books to read (love an excuse to read!) and maybe a few movies to watch, but I need to be careful they get at the angle I WANT and not just the more commonly seen 'theft itself'. Thieves are so often made out to be buffoons, and I am not interested in that, at least not at a collective... these guys are smart enough to have pulled one (several) over on some smart characters, so they need to be written well, organized well, and believable. Same for the Spies or Bounty Hunters.
So I am throwing out two topics I would LOVE feedback on.
Do any of you know of any great books that show 1) art thief rings from the inside, or 2) the TRAINING of spies or Bounty Hunters?
How do you writers approach topics you know nothing about that elude traditional research?