Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where Do You Draw the Line?

As I consider the requirements of writing a believable novel, I find the best descriptions come from those, not of the imagination, but of the experienced. Afterall, the word author does have its roots in the word authority. So, how can one write about something with which one has no knowledge?

If you ask me, this presents a problem. Does every thing that can be written need to be experienced by an author before it can be written about? No. Of course not. That would be absurd, however I believe there are some things which need to be experienced to write effectively or authoritatively about. So, where do you draw the line? I have a novel that I'm soon to pickup writing again called "In Eyes of Jade." The characters in this novel spend the majority of their time within the halls of a mental institute.

There's the problem.

Despite what some people may say, I'm not crazy and have no experience within such a place. I'd love to really deliver an honest, blunt, realistic and authoritative description of this institute, which demands that I spend some time within one (If I want to get the full effect) I am not suggesting that I hop in the padded cell, slip on the straight jacket and just see how it goes, but rather set up an interview or two with institute workers and or a tour.

Did any of you writers have to go through a dangerous or unique situation to acquire the research for your material? Where do you draw the line?

Any thoughts?


Stephanie Thornton said...

I've had to write violent scenes where someone was murdered or committed suicide, neither of which I've ever experienced. (Thank goodness!)

I just try to put my mind in a similar feeling situation that I have experienced- one where I panicked or felt angst, extreme sadness. I think it worked- I've written scenes that have made both myself and others cry. But it's hard- sometimes I struggle with scenes because I don't have a real life parallel.

Charles Gramlich said...

You're right. It's not write what you know, but write what you can learn to know. I've been pretty close to crazy more than once in my life. So not much research there.

David J. West said...

I like that title.

When it comes to writing I use things I have done an awful lot and just tweak them with things I have read or heard from other people or imagined, I think a lot of the trick is like Syephanie says and getting the feelings right. If it feels right to you (and you have done your homework) it ought to feel right to your readers.

I visited a friend who was in a mental instituition once and it was a somber place-pale plain pastels on the walls and a lot of people talking to themselves.

Voidwalker said...

Stephanie: Yes, I also amd glad that you have not had to experience murder or suicide to be able to write about it :P

Charles: I like how you put it, "...write what you can learn to know"

David: I've never had to visit an institute for anyone, but I imagine it is just like you said. I'm hoping to get a first hand experience here soon so I can get the full picture :)

Lauren said...

I'm working on a drowning scene right now- and it's not quite right, so it was suggested to me that I actually hold my breath underwater for as long as possible and then force myself to stay down even longer.
I'll be spending a lot of time at the pool, I think - that way, it's supervised. ; )

Thanks for the follow!


Voidwalker said...

Haha, nice! Well, be careful, because none of us wants you to REALLY know what it's like to drown!