Monday, November 10, 2008

When to suspend truth and when to make it real

I do a lot of research.  I have books that cover just about everything from missing persons to autopsies, from dream interpretation to Lakota Sioux traditions.  My father is a retired police officer and is usually willing to answer the "procedural" questions I have.  And, face it, the internet is a wealth of research information.  

Even mysteries need an 
element of truth.  As readers, we are willing to suspend reality only so far.  Don't believe me?  Watch an episode of Law & Order.  Then go to your local courthouse.  Trust me.  We are willing to suspend reality for a good story.

The things that make me frustrated are when someone tells me my carefully researched item won't work.  In Ghost Mountain, the killer uses a wide-mouth soda bottle as a silencer.  One critiquer doesn't like that.  One former cop assures me it will work.  Where does that leave me?  Do I suspend reality for the reader, or rest assured that my scenario will work?  (Honestly, I haven't totally decided, but I'm leaning toward the cop's opinion!)

How do I research the "un-research-able?"  Sometimes I don't.  

Who's going to tell me that my Lakota Spirit Guide wouldn't look that way?  Or smell that way?  Or even speak that way?  (For the record, I have an English-to-Lakota Dictionary on my desk and my Lakota guide mixes some of his traditional words into his speech.)  Who's going to tell me the Celtic Goddess who shows up in Ghost Mountain shouldn't act that way?  

Sometimes I let the tarot cards answer the question.  Or I get the opinion of someone I trust, often a psychic I know or someone who enjoys the paranormal aspect of what I write.  But ask a group of 10 psychics how information comes through, and I guarantee you'll get 10 different answers!

Heck, find a book on vampires.  Bram Stoker didn't think they could survive in the sun. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series seems to say they can.   Or werewolves.  Kelly Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series has a new and interesting take on them.  Who's to say she's wrong?

I let my creativity out with the paranormal aspects and keep the other parts of the story as realistic as possible.  As writers, we do the best we can.  Then we remember that we're only human.


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