At first a writer or reader may not be impressed that fiction should require any research, after all it’s just made up. Instead I have found that vetting your information is as important for fiction as for journalists, text book writers and other non-fiction authors. For your audience to become emotionally involved and care about your story and characters the plot must be plausible and facts must be correct. Some people may be surprised to find out that the hard-copies of research I have saved stack twice as high as my printed out manuscript.
I’ve spent seven years writing Save the Child. During that time I’ve spoken with attorneys, physicians, nurses, and patients & families even though I have over thirty four years of experience as a registered nurse myself. I’ve read numerous articles on the internet and in magazines. Libraries and books stores know me as a frequent customer. The results of some of my interviews have turned into blog articles on my website. All of the materials have played an important role in helping me flesh out the novel and bring it to life. I also feel an obligation to share what I have learned on my blog and am working on posting my extensive bibliography.
The combination of interviews, articles, books and other media created a rich background of material to pull from. I had to overcome my feelings of inferiority and ask for help. This is especially true with legal matters. I have family members and friends who either work in a law office or are practicing attorneys. I found out that lawyers specialize in law as much as doctors specialize in medicine. It took some persistence to find a specialist in medical ethics and healthcare law. But it paid off, and now I am confident that what I have written is correct – even if it is fiction.
Write what you know is something that is taught in almost every writing class. This doesn’t mean an author can’t go out into the realm of the unknown. What it does indicate is the author needs to become very familiar with the world they are creating for their reader. That is why I chose the setting of Gilbert and Arizona State University for Save the Child. Though I was tempted to write the story in a different state, I know this one best. I did, however, create a fictional hospital to prevent any misunderstanding about existing medical facilities.
Another item I needed to research was religion. The family in my novel, the Johnsons, belongs to a non-denominational Christian Church. I interviewed a colleague who attended a non-denominational Christian Church in this area and asked her how their church was structured, what the different functions were, what the leaders were called, how they addressed their leaders and so forth. The only other experience I had was a religion course I’d taken in college in the 70’s and the rare occasions that I’d attended a church of a different denomination at the time of a funeral or wedding. Spirituality is important to the Johnsons and church members provide support in their time of need. It was important to understand how this works outside of my own religious background.
My motto from now on will be Write What You Know, If you don’t know – familiarize yourself with subjects through research. If it doesn’t exist – your job is to create it so well that your reader can touch, smell, hear, see and taste it.
As part of the Writers Unite to Fight Cancer group, we all know about cancer. Some of us know cancer more intimately than anyone should ever have to. I know cancer from taking care of the victims young and old in my nursing career. Cancer does not discriminate. It is a monstrous killer that attacks anyone, every color, nationality, cultural background, religion, and gender. I am grateful that many advances in medicine and alternative treatments have been accomplished over my lifetime. Currently one cousin has ovarian cancer. My uncle died of renal cancer. I have an aunt and an uncle who are cancer survivors.