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Handango Inc.


Cultivating Experts
By: Norah Wilson  Published: 4/6/2011  Category: Writing
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by Norah Wilson

 

No one needs to tell you – a writer – how important it is to do your research. Is your heroine a criminal defence lawyer? She’d better know the difference between an indictable offence and a summary offence and in which court each is likely to be tried. Is your hero a cop? He’d better know how to handle that Sig Saur 9mm. Is he a doctor? A security expert? An executive? Better do your research. That’s not to say you have to master these respective trades. Well, not unless you’re writing police procedurals or medical thrillers! But for the rest of us, we do have to get acquainted with the basic details and soak up the field-specific language and culture, to lend your story an air of authenticity.

 

How do you do this? Through reading, largely. Much of it can be researched on the Internet. There are also good reference resources out there. But one of the best (and often overlooked) ways to get a good grounding in a particular field is to talk with an expert.

 

For instance, I had a situation where I wanted my hero to have a life-threatening injury, one that could kill him quickly, but that could be alleviated with the right medical knowledge (LAUREN’S EYES). I decided to give my cowboy pneumothorax (accumulation of air in the pleural cavity) with mediastinal shift (collapsed lung on one side forces the heart, trachea and great vessels to the unaffected side, with fatal results if a chest tube is not introduced). I read everything I could find on the subject, then wrote the scene.

 

Then I sent it to a writer-friendly physician who gently pointed out that my hero did indeed have a pneumothorax, but it was an open pneumo; my hero wasn’t in immediate, critical danger until my well-meaning heroine intervened. By sealing the hero’s knife wound, she turned his open pneumo into a tension pneumo, creating the life-threatening mediastinal shift. Thanks to this input, I was able to change the hero’s injury to a closed pneumo (lung rupture from forceful impact rather than from a puncture, a scenario far more likely to produce a tension pneumothorax without the heroine’s help!), and thereby avoided hideous embarrassment.

 

Another example? Without the help of a police officer on my Serve and Protect Series, I’d have had my hero pointing his 9mm at the villain without having chambered a round.  Or removing the clip from his gun but leaving a live round in the chamber. Small details, but critical.

 

As you can see, there is enormous value in conferring with an expert. And after you’ve picked his or her brain and written your scenes, see if you can get him/her to read those scenes to troubleshoot them. Not only can they help you avoid mistakes like the ones I’ve described above, they can help you bring authenticity to your work by helping you nail the language. They can also tell you where you’re being too show-offy with your new knowledge.

 

Don’t know any cops (doctors/prosecutors/veterinarians)? No problem. Make a cold call.

 

You see, here’s the thing – almost everyone is happy to share their expertise. It’s true! I once called a forensic anthropologist who didn’t know me from Adam (or should I say Eve?), but she agreed – enthusiastically and without fee – to address my writers’ group.

 

Did the three hours I spent with her teach me enough to write a book from the POV of a forensic anthropologist? Absolutely not. The field is too immense, too technical, too complex, to absorb more than the shallowest of overviews in the span of a few of hours. But just maybe I learned enough to fake my way through a scene where my detective confers with a forensic anthropologist on a case. And I established a contact with an expert to whom I can now turn for critical feedback, should I ever write such a scene. Or maybe I gleaned one little nugget of information that will stick in my mind like a grain of sand in an oyster’s folds, destined in the fullness of time to become a story “pearl”.

 

So, what do you want to know today? What kind of expert tops your list? Why not look one up and invite him/her to speak to your writers’ group? The worst that can happen is they’ll say no.   

 

But I’m betting they won’t.

 

Norah Wilson is the author of four indie romantic suspense books and credits the generosity of numerous experts for helping her breathe a sense of authenticity into her characters.

 
The above article was written by Norah Wilson
If you enjoyed it, be sure and check out their books!

LAUREN'S EYES Unspecified
View Norah Wilson's bio page

Veterinarian Lauren Townsend's clairvoyant powers revealed to her – through the eyes of a killer – a murder that is about to occur. Her only clue from the vision was a matchbook with the name of a guest ranch in Alberta. When she decides to vacation there in the hopes of identifying the killer, she is distracted by the ranch's brooding, sexy owner, Cal Taggart. The man's kisses promise paradise, but when the soon-to-be-victim turns up at the ranch, it's none other than Cal's ex-wife. Before she knows it, Lauren is risking everything - her happiness, her future, her very life - on the man she's come to love. But the outcome of her gamble is one thing she cannot see.

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PROTECTING PAIGE Unspecified
View Norah Wilson's bio page

Single parent Paige Harmer is at her wits end about her son. Dillon’s a good kid, but he’s fallen in with a bad crowd. She’s determined to enlist the help of her next door neighbor, the extremely handsome and much younger Tommy Godsoe. Tommy is a local cop, and up until he got shot recently in a police raid, was a dog handler. His injury is such that he can never go back to field work, and he refuses to be a desk jockey. All he wants is to nurse his wounds in solitude, and he’s done a great job driving his friends and colleagues away. But Paige is an unstoppable force. Before he knows it, he’s drawn into their lives. As it turns out, Paige and Dillon are going to need a cop in their corner. And Tommy needs Paige to drag him out of his self-pity and back to life.

Purchase site: Kindletm  Nooktm  Smashwords (other)
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NEEDING NITA Fiction - Romance
View Norah Wilson's bio page

Attorney Nita Reynolds is hot for Det. Craig Walker, but he's given up asking her out. She doesn't date cops...until a doctor's call makes her re-examine her priorities. Believing she has a brain tumor like the one that killed her father, she vows to make love to Craig Walker while she still has her full faculties. By the time the doctor realizes he's mixed up the scans, she's in way too deep.

Bargain
Purchase site: Nooktm  Smashwords (other)
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SAVING GRACE Fiction - Romance
View Norah Wilson's bio page

After wrecking her car and waking in hospital with amnesia, fledgling reporter Grace Morgan has no idea why she’d been in the process of leaving the husband she loves so dearly. Her husband, Police Detective Ray (Razor) Morgan tells her she was leaving him for another man, but that just can’t be so. Can it? She’s determined to remember, even if it kills her. And it just might. When bullets start to fly, Ray is forced to take the wife he believes faithless on the lam until they can figure out who is trying to kill them.

Purchase site: Kindletm  Nooktm  Smashwords (other)
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GUARDING SUZANNAH Fiction - Romance
View Norah Wilson's bio page

Criminal defense attorney Suzannah Phelps is the bane of the St. Cloud police department (they call her She-Rex for her habit of shredding cops in the witness box). She is currently being stalked, but is reluctant to report it to the police, whom she half suspects of being the perpetrators. But when Detective John (Quigg) Quigley learns of it, he's determined to protect her, at considerable risk to his career. They've struck sparks off each other in the courtroom, and he's burning to do the same in the bedroom. When the danger escalates, he has the perfect excuse to pose as her boyfriend, but the closer they get, the more the lines between pretense and reality blur.

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