Status: Inching along
|CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENT|
|EXPLORING LAVA CASTS|
|CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTMENT|
|EXPLORING LAVA CASTS|
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?
It's ironic our topic this month is research, as I'm doing that for one of the books in my series. My research process usually involves doing broad, in-depth research before I begin writing, then specific--and hopefully minor--research as needed while writing the book. However, this research may become more intense than I anticipated.
Like Paty, I research in a variety of ways. If possible, I like to visit the setting of my stories. In the case of my series, the town is fictional, but I visited the Eastern Oregon gold mining area where this fictional town is located. I also drew on my experiences growing up near a small town to add realism to my story town--but fictionalized, of course!
Character careers also develop from a variety of research processes. One of my heroines is a social worker. I worked with child welfare workers for nearly twenty years. A number of the heroes in the series are police officers. Part of my research was attending a Citizen Police Academy that offered a wealth of information about law enforcement.
Some people also suggested watching certain television shows, though I'm rather cautious about using that method unless it can be verified from another source.
I also do a lot of research on the Internet. Again, I try to verify the information from more than one source.
Fiction books also give me a good insight for how a character in a certain career might act or feel. It's also incredibly valuable to talk to people in the same career as my hero or heroine, say a firefighter, because their actions or mannerisms or how they respond to questions tell me a great deal about how this person might react to situations in my story.
However, research can only take a writer so far. Much to my mother's bafflement, there comes a time when I just let creativity loose and make stuff up. What I write isn't based on "real" people or settings. For me, that's one of the really fun parts of being a fiction writer!