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How would one express nerdy gobbledygook without sounding like a technical tryhard? For instance, if I were to explain the backstory of something and it perhaps contained the word electromagnetic or chipset; if it does, then readers sometimes don't like the writing style all the time, in my opinion. If you've ever read House of Robots by James Patterson, you know what I mean by sounding like a tryhard. I know not to be excessive on technical terms, but how could I avoid that writing style?

EDIT: The problem is not that I'm going to write about something I don't know. I'm a rather nerdy programmer already. The problem is that readers may not and I expect won't understand some of the writing. And if they do, they think I sound like a tryhard. I'm a twelve-year-old with no published books, so I have no audience to get opinions from; that's another problem I need to work around to get this answer. It's not a whole series I'm going to write about technology, but rather it's a fantasy novel with some tech in it. With that explanation, does anyone know how to actually avoid this?

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Try a Clancy novel. There's a reason he's a bestseller. Or Michael Crichton – Stu W Jan 17 at 18:37
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Note that it is entirely reasonable, and professional, to find someone who can act as a technical consultant to help you get this right. – keshlam Jan 18 at 1:14
    
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Why do you want to write gobbledygook? – A E Jan 18 at 21:15
    
So is your question about writing about concepts you understand yourself, or about concepts which you don't understand? I take it your readers mostly wouldn't be knowledgeable about the concepts, but you don't want to alienate readers who are either? If I tried answering your question, no matter which, my answer would sum up to: get feedback/help from the people who are unlike you and do your research if you write about a topic you don't know very well. – Nobody Jan 18 at 22:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

First off, +1 to all comments that advise "gobbledygook is fine if you use it correctly" and "gobbledygook isn't gobbledygook if given the right audience."

I also think it's important to strike a proper balance between technical and layman's terms. I often find that the Sci-Fi writers I like the best sprinkle jargon in with enough context to where you can understand what's going on even if you don't know the term's definition. The best fantasy authors do the same thing, but with made up creatures/devices in place of technical terms. If a Jestik is described as a dog, you think of it like a dog, that's all that matters.

I suggest writing the story in such a way that, when YOU read it, the flow and descriptions feel right to you. Then, have someone who isn't as educated on the technical aspects you reference read through your work. Ask them to make notes on sections where they felt the tech terms weighed the story down, or where they were confused by the jargon.

Writing isn't a "one draft and done" kind of process. So it's fine to get feedback and revisions on this aspect you're concerned with as you go. You're better off following your own heart when writing and then polishing it to a point where other people can understand it then trying to accommodate others from the start. That, and it's okay if not everyone "gets" it. Some literature is for a particular intellectual audience, not the masses, and that's nothing to be ashamed of.

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Nerdy gobbledygook isn't actually nerdy gobbledygook - they're actually saying things using technical words, acronyms, and abbreviations. It's very similar to medical speech in that way. You'll only sound like a tryhard if you're sticking pseudo technical made up words in that don't actually mean or say anything.

The first step is to figure out what exactly it is you want to say. You're only going to talk about a chipset if the chipset matters in context.

If what you're trying to say is that the computer is slow, a geek might complain about the stupid piece of junk chipset. Or a geek might be impressed by the chipset which would indicate a nice speedy computer.

Things have fractured a bit in Geekdom though - There are lots of geeks out there who don't pay attention to chipsets because they're programming apps for iPhones or Androids or whatever. There are hardware geeks, phone geeks, web programmer geeks, linux geeks, and etc. Each one of them is going to have a different set of technical words and knowledge depending on what is is they're doing. A linux geek might talk about what Kernel he's running on his main programming system while a web programmer might complain about problems with browser compatibility.

Gobbledygook is only meaningless to people who are outside the group, and if you're an outsider trying to write like an insider, you'll need to get some help or you're going to inevitably sound like a tryhard.

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I like what rolfedh says about Michael Crichton and how he writes about tech without using jargon. The problem with using jargon is that unless you make it up, you're going to severely date your writing. Think about the hardware geek who gets excited about a 386DX computer... this is from so far in the past that only us older geeks will even know what being talked about. If it's fantasy fiction, I'd leave out the jargon or make up something cool. – DoWhileNot Jan 17 at 19:19
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@DoWhileNot I think I'd be more excited by a 386SX, but a DX would be pretty cool too. – Bill Michell Jan 18 at 10:25
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The most important part of this is to get the terminology correct. As an IT professional, I am frustrated at how often TV/movies get basic things wrong, like calling hard drive space "memory", or referring to the slash character ("/") as "backslash". While common language is imprecise, technical jargon (such as medical speech) has far more precise definitions. If you can't get the language right, you lose me as a reader. – Monty Harder Jan 18 at 17:23
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If you want an example of really garbage research watch any tv show and look at the screen when the IT wizard is hacking. It's usually CSS or a for loop in Javascript/C++. Probably one of the worst is in the Netflix series Sense 8. It sounds like it makes sense to a layman, but if you know what it's actually talking about you're going to be really annoyed. What I'm saying is, there's another side to it. Don't use technical terms just because they sound like they make sense or you're going to bother anyone who has half an idea about what you're saying. – zfrisch Jan 18 at 20:19
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Come on, the 386SX was a lame half-baked excuse. The DX was the real 386, which then needed a name to indicate the difference. The 386SX is not something to get excited about; it's a way to (barely! ) upgrade your AT if you want the flexibility of configuring EMS and XMS softly rather than putting in a memory card that only does EMS, without costing as much as a real 386. – JDługosz Jan 19 at 8:01

Find and emulate a writer you like who uses technology in his stories without resorting to jargon or interrupting the narrative flow.

Michael Crichton does an excellent job of this! He writes compelling stories about people faced with the effects of technology. He occasionally uses the prolog to establish some background information. But from there on, his stories disclose the tech progressively, through the actions, words, and insights of his characters. It never gets boring.

For example, in Jurassic Park, Michael Crighton discloses the biotech through the eyes of Paleontologist (played by Sam Neil) and his colleague (played by Laura Dern) when they come to the park and see the dinosaurs the dinosaurs for the first time.

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Crichton's authored, "among other works, The Andromeda Strain (1969), Congo (1980), Sphere (1987), Travels (1988), Jurassic Park (1990), Rising Sun (1992), Disclosure (1994), The Lost World (1995), Airframe (1996), Timeline (1999), Prey (2002), State of Fear (2004), Next (2006; the final book published before his death), Pirate Latitudes (2009), and a final unfinished techno-thriller, Micro, which was published in November 2011." – rolfedh Jan 17 at 20:16
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I agree. It's the same as Sci-Fi when you read "Fire the phaser-laser-gimped guns!" => if it's standard, it's called "gun" by the users. Trying to push specific words to "sound" technical only ends up distracting from the story line. – Matthieu M. Jan 18 at 17:38

The best way is to either become enough of a "nerd" yourself to speak the lingo, or find someone who can help (keshlam mentioned this in comments)

The trick with much of the lingo is that subcultures invent such lingo to allow themselves to quickly and succinctly describe things that matter. As a result, such lingo has a tendency to get quite precise. This means many linguistic sharp edges that you can get wrong. It's like mathematics. If you make a single sign error, anyone will quickly notice the error because they rely on that language to confer very exact information (such as signage). This happens if you use any precise language, nerdy or not. If you have a legal action done "ex parte," that both parties were notified about, you'll get hell for it. Or perhaps there's the movie Hackers, whose writers really had no idea which device connects to what (I distinctly remember them suggesting the display refreshed faster because the modem was faster...)

My recommendation is my favorite rule ever: Sanderson's First Rule of Magic:

The author's ability to resolve conflict using magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to the reader's understanding of said magic.

Magic isn't just for fantasy. If you're interested in using technojargon to fill a hole in your dialogue that resolves conflict, you are going to have to make sure the readers understand it. However, by corollary, if you are not using it to resolve conflict, you have a great deal of freedom in your jargon. However, you still have to worry about the tryhard factor. In such cases, many technical jargons have some fuzzy words to help you out. If you are doing a medical drama story, and you have an unimportant line about some "idiopatic complex manifesting several psychosomatic syndromes," you have used enough fuzzy words that anyone who actually knows the lingo can put together that you're pulling one over on them. In fact, they might even think it was an Easter egg, just to reward them for knowing the terms (in the case above, that line would translate as "A bunch of things occurred from unknown origin, resulting in several mental issues with no clear cause," letting them know just what you feel about this particular line). There's great examples all over, especially in film. I'm particularly thinking of Avatar getting away with mining "Unobtanium," and Star Trek's Jeffery's Tubes (identifiable by their prefic, GNDN: "Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing"). You get away with a lot more when you don't try to insult their intelligence by thinking you're sneaking one past them.

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One thing I would suggest is to know your audience and your characters. For example, if you're writing from the perspective of a particular character (either first-person or third-person limited), then you want the following:

  • Your readers to identify with that character in some way, and
  • That character's thoughts, words, and actions, to correspond with his or her technical knowledge.

So, if you're writing from a perspective of a character without a professional background in a particular area, then:

  • You're not expecting your readers to have that background either.
  • You can use that character's thoughts, words, and actions to help interpret the technical gobbledygook of other characters or objects.

That way, readers don't feel left out, or if they do, they know that the character with whom they're sharing a perspective feels similarly left out. I think the most problematic situation is when readers feel like they're supposed to know what some technical term means, but they don't. Then they feel alienated and become disinterested.

I recently read The Martian and appreciated how the author Andy Weir handled technical content. For one, the main character Mark has a somewhat technical background, proficient in some areas but not in others. When Mark uses this knowledge, Weir has Mark work through the steps in his head. Doing this helps the reader learn about the thought process of the character, and it also guides the reader through the technical content.

In other situations, when Mark is less familiar with some technical aspects, then the reader feels like he or she is learning along with Mark. Again, this helps create a connection between the reader and the character.

Lastly, I appreciated that all the technical details in the book were well thought out and well researched. I stopped reading a couple of times to look up things mentioned in the book (particularly the radioisotope thermoelectric generator) to see if they were real and learned about how they worked.

Obviously, something set in a fantasy or far-future science fiction world will deal with fictitious technology that readers can't look up on Wikipedia, but I think it's important to keep some sense of realism, at least internally to your world if not outside it.

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Read a well-known sci-fi author like Arthur C. Clarke. I'll recommend "Rendezvous with Rama". He'll get away with a lot, by simply stating what stuff is.

As mentioned by others, it's not a lazerpistol, it's a zapper or a gun. It's not a "GUI that gets the IP using a Visual Basic Script" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkDD03yeLnU) it's "something I cooked up, last night" and perhaps "I even had time to add some graphics"...

Unless it's internal operation is an important plot device, don't try to tell us how it works. Just give it a name, and preferably, have a character that handles it for the first time, or needs to explain it to someone, and purposely oversimplifies.

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Try using real words instead of made up nerd substitutes like "tryhard" and "backstory". People are granted more credibility when others can tell that they're literate.

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I used the word tryhard because I couldn't think of anything else, but how is "backstory" a nerd substitute? It's a real word. – WampyCakes Jan 19 at 0:50
    
In context, it probably should be exposition. – JDługosz Jan 19 at 8:04
    
Can't think of a word: use a thesaurus. Even surf an online thesaurus and evaluate possible candidates. It's handy if you can flip to the definition of words you see listed, even if you know them, just to more carefully compare their nuances. If you do introduce a term, whether made up or just used in a precise manner of your choosing, then immediatly explain it separately from the first use example. – JDługosz Jan 19 at 8:09
    
@WampyCakes - Ignore the naysayers. When it comes to fiction, "made up nerd substitutes" are all part of developing a unique writing style. Shakespeare made up plenty of words in his time, and I'm sure he would have been trolled just as hard if forums existed in his day. huffingtonpost.com/paul-anthony-jones/… bbc.com/culture/story/… – KB145 Jan 19 at 19:49

I suggest that you use nerdy-language to build up a sense of authenticity. However, you might not want to use it for all objects. And the ones that you do use, I'd suggest you give a BRIEF explanation about what it is. Read Jurassic Park. It does this well with biological terms... But then again, I know biology very well, so I may be slightly biology-biased... Good luck!

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Technical jargon can be incorporated into the story with varying degrees of success and effect. Unfortunately, there is not a formula to determine if there is too much in your story. In most cases, it is better to leave out the details of all of the technical inner workings, and leave that part up to the imagination of your readers.

One way to determine if there is too much technical mumbo-jumbo is to let people do peer reviews of portions of your work. As the author, you might think an entire chapter that describes the inner-workings of a robot, toaster, etc, but your readers may disagree.

Another thing to be aware of is that it does not take much to turn a reader off, and have them permanently put your book back on the shelf. A good writer knows their audience, and they know how to keep them entertained.

To get around the problem of boring your readers with useless technical information. You can give a physical description without getting too detail oriented. Just as example, if you are writing about a car, you don't need to write about the parts of the engine, but you opt to write about what the top speed is, and about the physical features such as the make, model, color, etc.

If you choose to write more about the technical aspects, then those details should be ones that will come in handy later. If you were writing about a robot and you mentioned how high it could jump, then you should write about it jumping later on in the story.

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