Respecting your Subject Matter
by Mia Darien
by Mia Darien
One of the oldest pieces of writing advice is: write what you know. In some ways, this is good advice. In others, it's really complete B.S. You know why? Because then paranormal authors like me wouldn't have nothin' to write about. I don't know any vampires or werewolves in real life.
If all fiction writers just wrote what they knew, well...fiction would be very boring. We like to write the fantastical. Paranormal is great, because no one can dispute you. All of us are just making this stuff up as we go along. Sure, we have other paranormal books and movies, and old mythologies, to go off of. But really, we are wide open. The paranormal playing field is our playground.
However, sometimes you want to write something that is real, but that you still don't know a lot about.
In The Distance Between, my heroine is from Russia and my hero is in a wheel chair. I'm not in medicine. I don't know about spinal injuries. I've never been to Russia. I know little of international marriages. (Although, according to some, a girl like me from New England marrying a born-and-bred southern boy like my husband qualifies as an international marriage, and some days, I agree...)
Anyways! I didn't know much about these things, but it was still a story I wanted to write and one I thought had a lot of merit. So, I did what all writers should do when faced with "real" things they have little experience with: I studied.
I researched online. I talked to a woman who is in a wheelchair herself and does outreach to help educate people about spinal injuries. (She very patiently answered what must have been some very odd questions.) I talked to a friend who married a woman from Russia. I reached out and got my information.
Did I still have to play with it? Sure, because you have to make your prose and story fit properly and read how you want them to. But what's important is that I strived to get it as realistic as I could and ultimately, to have respect for these aspects of life that I was portraying, even if they aren't things I've lived through myself. (I didn't really need a passport to cross the Mason Dixon line, despite what we almost convinced my grandmother.)
To me, that's always the most important. Whether you're not a cop but writing crime fiction, not a psychiatrist but writing a psychological thriller, or not a whatever writing whichever... Learn what you can about it, and respect the people who do live it while you're trying to portray them.
I gotta say, though, after all that? Writing the weretiger part was easy!
Thanks to the Masquerade Crew for giving me the chance to ramble for a while!
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