There’s always been something mystically cerebral about people in technical professions like engineering, science, and mathematics. They talk animatedly about plate tectonics, debate the structure of atoms, even smile at the mention of calculus. Popular lore says they can drop a pin through a straw without touching the sides. Which isn’t true, of course.
Here’s a short list of tips, taken from my own personal experience as a geek that will help you more authentically represent these big-brained Sheldon-look-alikes in your writing. If you’re writing a book with nerdy folks, these may help:
- Techies are intrigued by problems so don’t mind spending hours on them. Know that going in.
- When visiting, bring food. Techies often forget to eat, or ate everything in their snack stash and need more.
- Distract them with an interesting problem. If yours is unique, even better.
- Start the encounter with a discussion on Dr. Who, Minecraft, Big Bang Theory, or Game of Thrones. Find a clever tie-in to your topic.
- Everyone I know thinks geeks and nerds are computer experts and gifted teachers. They in turn think trying to teach friends to tech is like solving the Riemann Hypothesis (many consider this darling of mathematical problems impossible). Don’t be either.
- The minutes after the 100th crashed computer is what might be called a life-defining moment. If that just happened as you walked through your techie’s door, turn around and come back another time.
- If s/he’s in the zone, leave the room; come back later.
- While tech teachers can get your computer working, your printer spitting out paper, and you online despite ten error messages, there are days they need a dictionary to understand everyday English. Be gentle.
- They can type and talk at the same time. Some even use two keyboards at once. Expect that.
- Know the difference between the “happy-techie” face and the “go away” face. Act accordingly.
- Their heads are like Matrix on steroids. Don’t try to understand them – unless, of course, you’re a geek too. Then, you’ll feel at home.
- Techies do remember times when friends solved their own tech problems and appreciate it. So, try to fix your broken computer yourself (i.e., check the plugs and power buttons) before visiting.
- You can’t scare them. They’re techies. Try kindness instead.
- Avoid words such as “Meh”. These started geeky but are now so mainstreamed as to be boring. Geeks, nerds, and tech teachers hate being bored.
If you’re looking for bribes for the geeks in your life, here are affordable gifts that are more welcome than a collared shirt or lens wipes:
- snacks — chocolate, chips, pretzels, or anything eaten quickly and by hand. They’re allowed to eat at their keyboard because they know how to fix it.
- a problem they’ve never seen before
- something written in binary, hexadecimal, or Klingon
- tickets to the Las Vegas Defcon, one of the world’s largest hacker conventions. You don’t even have to go with them.
- a t-shirt that says “I paused my game to be here” or “Pavlov’s Cat”
If you don’t understand one of these gifts (like hexadecimal, DEFCON, or Pavlov’s Cat), don’t give it to them. Techies are curious and might ask you about it.
Other gifts to avoid would be any that revolve around the three P’s: 1) paper (like letter-writing paper or post-it notes), 2) pencils, or 3) plastic. Geeks have a higher-than-normal intolerance for anything that destroys the environment.
For a world before geeks were even a species, read my latest book, Against All Odds, set 850,000 years ago in a peaceful era before computers, websites, and bytes had invaded every part of our lives.
–published first on Chris the Storytelling Ape
More about being a geeky writer
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction soon. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning