Thursday, July 21, 2011

WHEN IS RESEARCH TOO ACCURATE?

Current Project: LEGACY series
Status: Book #1 sent to publisher; editing Book #2
Posted by Genene Valleau


Research is fun, entertaining and sometimes too gross, disgusting or controversial (for me) to put in a book.


Let me give you some examples. Don't know how many of you read Paty's guest blog post about riding a stage coach (http://romancingthewest.blogspot.com). Very interesting! But nine people crammed inside with the people on the end of the seats having to hang their legs out the door, with their feet dangling dangerously close to the wheels? Not to my liking, thank you, to say nothing of the dust or snow or whatever weather blowing inside to permeate your clothing and cling to your skin--which you couldn't wash for a week or a month or longer. So you pack in nine unwashed bodies with a variety of bad habits like spitting or snoring or whatever--um, doesn't exactly set the scene for my idea of a romantic tryst, unless you're writing a parody.


Let's say I'm grateful most historical romance authors don't include all the details in their stories. :)


However, history isn't the only research that can be "too accurate." I've written stories with elements New York publishers said "wasn't believable," though those elements were based on real events I experienced while working for human services. Hmm.


I worked with social workers for about twenty years and developed great respect for the work they do and am still amazed how they can help people turn broken lives into stellar accomplishments. Yet I also saw people who should never have been in social work, were overwhelmed, had their own addictions, were struggling with personal issues--the whole gamut of human emotions and experiences. And kids were neglected or seriously injured or killed because workers weren't superhuman every day to deal with caretakers who, for a variety of reasons, shouldn't have been around kids.


Do I put details of real cases in my stories? Nope. Some people aren't comfortable even with the glossed over version of child abuse.


I've also had multiple bad experiences with law enforcement and the courts where searching for the truth doesn't even seem to occur to these people. They have agendas of their own, they are playing political games or are looking for numbers to receive more government funds, or they are menopausal and have a personal ax to grind. (I truly did have a public defender tell me she was going through menopause as an excuse for not having a clue what was going on in a case.) There are also very dedicated law enforcement and court personnel who truly want to bring out the best of whatever part of those systems they can influence.


Sigh. So my rose colored glasses are cracked and the frames bent and twisted a bit. I think my negative life experiences are why I write happy endings. It's a way I can change "reality." I create heroes and heroines with the courage and integrity to do what is right, not what is convenient or what will benefit them personally. Yes, they sometimes crash up against the systems they are part of, whether they are social workers, police officers, priests--even prostitutes or abused spouses. They make mistakes. They fall face first into trouble or sometimes they pursue it. But at the end of the story, the bad guys meet Justice in person, and the heroes and heroines get their happily ever after. At least until the next crisis tests their integrity once again. :)


CAUTION: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION -- That's the basis for my LEGACY series. I'm sharing the cover of the first book with this blog post. (Release date scheduled for March 2012.) The hero is a cowboy cop who had bad experiences with social workers as a child, and the heroine is a child welfare worker who swore she would never get tangled up with a testosterone-charged lawman. However, they discover her determination to help people make positive changes and his integrity in protecting the citizens of his tiny hometown are a perfect match to bring an unexpected villain to justice and find a baby the loving home he deserves.


NOW BACK TO OUR REGULAR BLOG POST AND ASKING FOR YOUR THOUGHTS -- Please share what research or reality is "too accurate" for you, either as a writer or a reader or both. What details do you simply not want to see in a book? Or do you want all the gory, intimate details revealed?


8 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BLOG POST... sigh. My apologies. I completed my blog post ahead of time and scheduled it to post...

Unfortunately, I didn't get all the numbers in the date and it posted in the July 2 spot. I think I fixed it and it should be posted in the right place on the blog now.

Possible lessons: don't do my blog posts ahead of time. Reread the post yet again and see if the Universe is telling me not to put something in print. Go back to school and learn how to type. Proofread!

LOL!

chanceofbooks said...

Great blog Genene. I think that where we are in life influences what's "too accurate" for us. Pre-having kids, I read a lot of serial killer type thrillers. Since having kids, I just can't read books with child sex crimes, and I especially can't go there when the author places us w/in in the POV of the victim or the killer. I don't care how accurate it is or how much research they did, I would rather not read it. And actually, I'd rather see the gory details of death just glossed over--I don't really want pages of what body parts are rotting or corpse descriptions. On a lighter note, kinda like the stagecoach, modern air travel is becoming such a hassle--I'm totally okay with authors just glossing over the long lines, cramped seats etc. I'm also totally okay with injuries healing faster in fiction etc. And heroines need never experience a period unless it's a plot point :)

Genene Valleau said...

LOL, Bethany, about heroines and "that time of the month"! Could definitely fall under the heading of Too Much Information. :)

Good point about our tolerance level being influenced by the stages of our life. Having kids really readjusted my priorities too.

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who likes to slide lightly by some of the more "detailed details."

Paty Jager said...

Love the cover!
I agree there are some,even if accurate, things people don't want to read about.

All that nasty information I dug up on the stage coach boiled into one sentence about how the heroine felt after a week long ride in the stage coach. She wanted a bath and a moment to herself.

I'm with Bethany, I don't like to get into serial killers heads, I don't like descriptive killings or torture.

Christine Young said...

Absolutely love this cover.

Genene Valleau said...

Thanks, Paty and Chris, for the kudos on the cover.

Paty, glad you boiled the research down to wanting a bath and a moment alone. But the information really was interesting.

I agree with you and Bethany. Getting into the heads of serial killers is spooky. I do use the villain's point of view sometimes, but (hopefully) toned down and in small doses.

Sarah Raplee said...

I keep most graphic violence off the page. I don't write about rape. I don't want to read about these things in detail either.

I don't like reading detailed explanations of how things work - just enough for the book world to make sense. 'The aliens' weapons emit a deadly beam' as opposed to 'Hey, Bob,the alien weapons must filter beams of light through magelium-tinted glass to focus them into deadly blades of light.'

Good points in this post!

Genene Valleau said...

Sarah, good point about "how things work." I agree. I don't want to see a detailed explanation of how they work either; just enough to make it feasible.

I also agree about the graphic violence, and usually stay away from rape. However, in the second book of my series, sexual violence has had such an impact on the main characters that I'm walking the fine line between getting deep enough into their emotions to lend realism without sliding into a too graphic muck. It may turn out to be one of those stories people either love or hate. Never say never, as the saying goes.