Friday, February 11, 2011

Pitfalls of Plotter Research

Hi all, firstly, I want to say welcome to all of the new ladies and gents the followed the blog. Thanks very much and I hope you all enjoy the view into my life as a writer.


In the mean time, let me introduce you to our second brave soul: SM Schmidt.


She's also one of my newer followers, but her blog, The Non Sequitur Ramblings, has been around since 2009.

In the short time that I have followed her blog, I have come to love her weekly posts. So I hope you all go check it out.

Then, just a quick reminder to book your Fridays if you want to guest post. The list of open Fridays and my e-mail address is to your right. ;-)

OK... enough about me. Here's SM Schmidt.




Pitfalls of Plotter Research


Pretend you’re a plotter. Armed with a beautiful outline you’ll begin researching every last detail. We aren’t our characters and getting the details wrong are what make people throw books at walls. Or maybe that’s just me. Back to our scenario: research found the perfect injury for the scene where you vaguely put “Protag gets cast.” An exotic sounding Hamate Fracture is not the vanilla sprained wrist lesser authors would use. But here is where all that research can bog down the writing. Don’t see it yet? Let’s run with the Hamate Fracture some more.

The main character can’t insist on a CT scan the moment they are treated in the ER. That’s peeking too much behind the curtain where Author knows traditional x-rays miss this exotic injury. The triage resident can’t have an Ah Ha moment because it’s exotic injury. Specialists are required to diagnose it. We’re stuck following the system. Triage Resident will misdiagnose (as 80% of doctors do in this case) and our protagonist is stalled in this cycle of hospital, treatment, continued pain, repeat. So much for our plot located outside of a hospital.

Details and Facts are biting the hand that found them! That vanilla broken wrist is looking rather tempting now. So does Author go for the easy out because the whole point of this injury was getting our protagonist in a cast, not explore the medical underworld. Or bend real life (which are guidelines in fiction) and let our character get off easy? Only doctors would scoff at this bending. Doctors don’t have time to read! Problem solved!

No. Editor will smack your wrists with a ruler. Use what research dumped in Author’s lap to build a stronger bond between two of the characters. The downside? I know I’d have to keep a sharper eye on myself to avoid letting things go too conveniently. So how do we fix this scenario so it doesn’t read off a shampoo bottle? Maybe the protagonist exercises their right to a second opinion (which isn’t that common in real life). I sent protag to a hand specialist, who corrects the misdiagnosis, and my plot moves forward doctor free. At least for two months. That cast had to come off sometime.
 
 
 
 
Thanks again, SM! I really enjoyed this view of a plotter's life.

24 comments:

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Excellent point in not bogging down the plot with details. It can be hard to get the details down properly. Too much can bore the reader. Not enough and the reader might not understand what you mean.

Gary Baker said...

I think the same applies to the science in Science Fiction. Sometimes it's like being back at uni with Prof Deitricht making an hour's QED lecture seem like six month in an airing cupboard, when all I want to know is, does A escape the nasty alien and get the girl.

Cherie Reich said...

Great post! When I was at a writer's conference, the agents there said not to get the reader bogged down in the details. The author needs to know them, but should sprinkle them into the writing. :)

Madeleine said...

Yes great pouint.
I've heard that the author should *know* the details but shouldn't relate all of them in their stories. :O)

SM Schmidt said...

Thanks again Misha for letting me guest post, and thank you to everyone who has posted a comment. I'm glad to see other plotters recognize this sneaky problem.

Lydia K said...

Great post. It's hard not to prove to the reader that hey, we really know something about this! Subtlety is everything.

Maria Zannini said...

Kinda makes you wish for the old days when doctors didn't run any extra tests and just put you in a cast with a 'we'll see' attitude.

Threading research requires a delicate hand. Just enough to intrigue the reader and not so much as to raise the ire of the experts.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks Misha..for this wonderful post with SM. I loved reading about a plotter's process and Research. I too have a tendency to do extensive research.

Regarding your previous post on which I was unable to comment for some strange reason, My internal editor can be pretty rude and demanding. But sometimes he is kind of cute. :)

Katie Ganshert said...

Hi Misha! I tend to do research as I write. Thanks for visiting my blog today. :)

Christina Lee said...

Thanks for the awesome post SM! And HI Misha!

Beth said...

Great post. I'll jump over and check out the other blog ;).
bethfred.com

Amy Saia said...

It's definitely good to have a reminder like this. Happy weekend to ya!

Margo Benson said...

Very good post, plenty of food for thought, especially as a newbie. Great to meet another crusader.

SM Schmidt said...

Thanks again everyone for the wonderful comments. I'm happy this helped the new folks as well as senior with balancing details and research.

Chris Phillips said...

I would have a hard time writing about anything in the medical field.

WritingNut said...

Great post! I always heard that it's important not to fill your MS with too many unnecessary details, even though you should know them yourself :)

SM Schmidt said...

@Chris - it's pretty simple to research, first disregard everything you see on tv. Second hit up youtube and or a decent medical site. I usually use ones that post actual studies because I'm use to reading academic papers. Third, omit what you don't need directly in the story but build on it like where the pain would be and how much etc. As with any good research it's about your sources.

shelly said...

Great Post! I see you've been to The Life of the Novice Life. Thank you for visiting. Signing up to follow yours. And yes, there are days when I could through my novel or novels in the street and watch a car drive over them. But, I'd loose my computer if I did this.

Devin Bond said...

Awesome post SM Schmidt. I can totally relate to the analogy!

hosted BES said...

Lovely post! Write more!

Nicki Elson said...

Ooh, interesting post. It's so important to get those details right, even if most of the nitty gritty reality of the injury never gets shared with the reader. Bravo for not taking the easy way out.

And P.S. to Misha -- gorgeous blog you have here!

Jacqueline Howett said...

Gee! that was pretty intense, but you made some great pointers and much to think about. I'll check out your link. Thanks and have a great Valentine's day you all...

Misha said...

Hi all! Just wanted to say thanks for dropping by and supporting the guest posters. I really feel as if this is a worthwhile effort.

:-D

Jen Chandler said...

Great post, SM! I tend to plot out instances that require a lot more research than the average "vanilla" problems. I'm off to check out your blog!

And thanks, Misha, for another great guest post :D

~Jen