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Technical Communicators do exactly what the name implies. We take big lumps of technical information (software, products, policies and such), digest it then make user-friendly documents of some sort.

Most of us techies are interested in the technology tools and go to great lengths to get trained in them. We can run Microsoft Word like champs and even know what a paragraph style is!

Is it a big leap from non-fiction to fiction? Well, yes and no. Just as in writing about the “real world” a fiction writer has to write about his Story World – the framework and setting of the stories. In technical communication, the Story World is real; he mainly has to figure out the relative importances of the information and then present it in a usable fashion. He needs to be able to find holes in the information (what happens when the user’s given 3 choices but none of them fit?), research, interview, review, get reviews and all that interesting stuff.

A fiction writer has to create the Story World (Ingermanson, et. al.). Depending on the genre, that can be quite a task. Most stories are actually set in the real world, such as New York City. It really helps if the writer has been there, lived there and “done that.” Characters and story lines need to fit the scenes.

Spy thrillers, mysteries and genres such as that are often set this way; while the writer might have to do some research (is there actually a park at 3d Street and 10th Avenue?), his main Story World development involves the characters and often assumptions about the world’s background. “The Company” might be a shadowy association of CIA or FBI-type figures. It could be a Real Good Thing or something full of corruption and double-dealing.

Doing science fiction or fantasy (or mixing them) requires more Story World development. Here’s where a technical communicator has a great advantage; he knows how to leave no holes, ensure there’s no dead-end choices and that the way the world works is self-consistent.

Is Harry Potter’s Story World self-consistent? You betcha. The consistency and contrast between magic users and the muggles (non-magic folk) is one thing which makes the series so popular. Without the extensive Story World, it would just be a bunch of kids going to school and getting into mischief, right?

Even though I’m a tech communicator by trade, I grew up reading. My family didn’t have a TV until I was almost through college. My brother and my idea of a good time was to walk to the library about a half-hour away, get a bunch of books (as many as we were allowed), walk back home and dive in.

Even now I don’t have a TV. My apartment-buddy does, but we’re golfers and it’s on the Golf Channel most of the time. I’ve been a reader a long time.

When the Internet got mature enough and Microsoft came out with Windows 3.1, I was in tech communicator heaven. I could find all sorts of stuff – even “dirty” stories. In 2001, my then-wife and I separated and I did even more surfing and looking for education/entertainment.

In 2004, I found http://storiesonline.net. It had lots of genres; while most of them had tons of sex/erotica, there were still lots of drama, action/adventure, SciFi and the like. I sampled them all.

SOL (storiesonline) is all about amateurs. If you could follow the upload instruction, you could publish yourself. I found favorite authors and some not-so-favorite. Many, many of the writers didn’t appear to know the difference between a comma and a period or have much idea what “tense” means in verbs.

Many of the plots were quite decent, but I was distracted a lot by the technical quality – the grammar (lack thereof), spelling, paragraphs that filled the screen and the like.

I finally said to myself, “Self, you can do better than that.” So, I started with a single scene in February 2005 and worked the story line backwards and forward until I had Sorcerer: The Inner Circle finished in October. With the help of several editors, the entire thing was published to SOL by the end of December 2005 – during that time I was working on the next story.

So, that’s how an innocent technical communicator got seduced by the Back Side of the Farce.

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