Only Half the Truth: III of III
In Part I, I discussed my mantra: “Write what you’re passionate to know more about.”
In Part II, I explained how that impacted the writing of the FAMISHED series.
However, when I embraced this mantra, it also became clear that the flip side was true:
Don’t write about things you couldn’t care less about.
This caused problems for me in both books in one specific area: Modern law enforcement.
As I grew older, I came to respect the work of law enforcement agents more than in my youth, and developed an appreciation for the difficult jobs they do.
But the nuts and bolts of police procedure or detective work never grabbed me, as it has so many others.
I have never watched CSI, SVU, NYPD BLU. Grimm is as close as I ever came to an enjoyable police show.
I found more success studying private detectives. While they, too, are bound by codes, conventions and laws; their often solitary work intrigued me more than the team efforts of modern policing. (Film noir and pulp magazines such as Black Mask influenced me in my young adulthood, which played a part in this.) As such, I brought myself to study the modern methods and needs of real-world private detectives – but I never found a way to make a study of the official police agencies palatable to me.
However, the very first draft of THE COMMONS dealt with a public and fatal attack on a prominent American politician. That could never be kept a secret from law enforcement, and as I realized this limitation of my horizons, I scrapped that entire treatment.
The next draft of THE COMMONS introduced a private detective to investigate a disappearance, but alpha readers indicated his presence unbalanced the book and drew attention away from my true protagonist. He was cut from later drafts of the novel.
Realistic portrayal of situations, people, and procedures have always depended upon the author’s enthusiasm for the subject. A lack of enthusiasm for that knowledge inevitably led even famed authors to mistakes.
As a small example, in Lord of the Flies, William Golding described a thin crescent moon that rose just after sunset. A larger example: H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines featured a scene in which a total eclipse of the sun occurs on the day after a full moon. Astronomers – or even enthusiastic amateurs, passionate about the night sky – inevitably caught and published these blunders.
Those examples showed small details. How much worse might it have been if Golding or Haggard had made astronomy a main feature of their works?
Hence, my last statement on this theme: For accuracy, for excitement, for all good writing – if you didn’t care enough to research it, you should not have written it.
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