An author will spend years of his or her life researching various topics for manuscripts. From medieval castles and corsets to bomb construction and serial killer profiles, we leave few pebbles (topics) unturned in the pursuit of authenticity. We’ll climb mountains, shoot guns, spend hours in the library reading resource material, or scour the internet for information.
And in all honesty, researching historical events, locations, illnesses and battle tactics are easy. Authenticity gets hard when you grow and diversify your characters.
Think about it. Goth. Jock. Thug. Geek. Stoner. Prep. Nerd. Goodie-two-shoes. Hippie. Christian. Atheist. Gay. Straight. Hermit. Addict. Deaf. Paraplegic. New age. Raver. The list of subcultures goes on and on. You may be able to check a few off as “belonging” to said group. You will never be able to check them all because some of the dynamics drastically appose one another.
Authors can write in their subcultural safe zone for the entirety of their career. However, if authenticity is the goal you must host a wide range of characters because life is full of them.
So, how do you write a Catholic’s point of view when you grew up a non-believer? How do you write an addict’s need when you’ve never felt the debilitating pull?
If you can, bust your bubble. Step outside your comfort zone and open yourself up to the different. You don’t have to agree with your character’s lifestyle, but you must use empathy to try and understand the why’s of it. Documentaries, interviews and observation are great source materials for the why’s.
I certainly don’t agree with a serial killer’s lifestyle. Yet, I try to understand how their minds function in order to write authentically.
Good luck busting your bubbles and finding authenticity!
Megan Mitcham, Writer