I know that we can’t watch a show with any military reference without my husband
cursing at the television, ahem, correcting, how wrong they always get it. Either the formation is wrong, the uniform is completely off, etc… He will pick it apart to no end.
Thankfully I have him there to
tell me just how much I fucked up, ahem, guide me when I miss the mark.
Oh boy, do I botch it at times.
So, when I first began writing about disabled characters, I knew I was going to need to do my homework. It’s a scary thing writing about a marginalized community. You are putting yourself out there for huge backlash if you get it wrong. I never wanted to diminish the struggles, but I also didn’t want to portray them as weak. I wanted to handle it with the utmost sensitivity, realism and paint my heroes and heroines in a positive affirming light.
I’m a researcher to a fault. I’ll spend hours pouring over medical case reports, researching different types of conditions to make sure that I hit things spot on scientifically. I researched O&M training, physical therapy websites, prosthesis websites, blogs, YouTube, books, articles, the Reddit community. Oh and guide dogs. That was a favorite, I mean, who doesn’t LOVE dogs?
If I’m unsure of a detail, even a minute one, I’ll research it. I go too far at times. Like seriously, does my reader actually care that I researched the time of the liquor store closing on Sunday in my heroines neighborhood?
As far as researching my setting, the majority of my first novel takes place in DC. I’d never been there when I first started writing, so I spent a lot of time online and embedded in Google maps, searching local bars and coming up with locations for scenes in my novel. This was a TON of fun. What was even more fun was when I actually got to take a trip to DC and experience it first hand. You can read all about that here.
Some of the research was grueling. Some of the research was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. The medical stuff didn’t bother me. I grew up in the days of Trapper John MD and love me some Grey’s Anatomy so that kind of research was right up my alley.
For one of my novels I had to research overseas adoption. For another I needed to research some legal stuff. This is about where I almost pulled my hair out. The only thing that comes even close to being as mind numbingly awful as criminal law is politics. (Yes, I see the irony that my novel(s) takes place in DC, but politics really don’t play a huge role). My husband will talk politics and I sit there and nod as my eyes glaze over.
Anyhow, I learned so much I knew I would just wow my husband with how detailed I got hitting the mark on this stuff. Then he tells me to trim it down.
Woah. Wait. All that time I spent learning I’m just supposed to cut? You mean I go into TOO much detail?
The fact that my first novel was clocking in at 117K words tells me yes, I may have the problem of going into too much detail.
So, I learned above all that you can research a subject to death. There is a fine line to walk between giving the right information and giving TOO MUCH information.