16.10.11

Storms, science, and breathing life into the written man

Back in 2006, when I started researching Hurricane Katrina media coverage for The Hurricane Lover, hurricane specialist Dr. Jack Beven started showing up a lot. A calm, knowledgeable voice in the storm of hurricane hype. I searched out his home page, was intrigued, and whipped him an email. He graciously agreed to spend time on the phone with me, reality checking my science, educating me on the lingo and logistics, and bolstering my portrayal of my protagonist, a meteorologist whose specialty is storm behavior.

Of course, my character is what you’d expect a fictional character to be: brilliant, kind, good-humored, and slightly too sexy to be a geek — all of which Dr. Beven seems to be, but in real guy terms, which means he's educated, well-spoken, basically cool, and way too busy for the sort of adventures my character gets drawn into. Dr. Beven is also a Dr. Who enthusiast, which made me laugh out loud, because in the book, the meteorologist's lover collects Dr. Who memorabilia.

I kept trying to gently goad him off topic, just so I could hear him talk. I was listening for jargon, cadence, motivation; looking for the psychology of the storm. But Dr. Jack Beven was not easily goaded off topic. He remained imperturbably focused on one thing: the science of the storm. If I knew if I made that singular focus foundational to my character’s character, he would be invested with the one thing that makes a written man breathe, the quality that makes Dr. Beven such a compelling and charming character himself: authenticity.

Like that George Burns zinger: “The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

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