|Subject: Writing about Norma|
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Date Posted: 19:55:50 11/22/10 Mon
I decided to start a new thread on this one . . .
>I'm looking forward to the book Wes writes about
>Norma. It's not that every story needs to be
>independent, but that each character he describes has
>so much to teach us. Obviously I'm caught believing
>Norma is another of those great characters.
You know, I hadn't thought about that one, but after I saw this message last night I kicked it around a little bit. I think I'd enjoy reading it but am not sure I want to do all the research that would be required to write it.
It could be an interesting story. Pretty obviously it would have to involve the way that two different cultures affect Norma, and how she copes with the cross-cultural issue. I mean, let's assume she's, oh, maybe in med school, and is confronted with a prof that asks a question about how a certian issue should be treated -- it's obvious that he's fishing for giving the person a huge dose of antibiotics or something, while it's clear to Norma that what the person really needs is a massive dose of some herbal remedy, as it would be more likely to work better and be cheaper despite being technically incorrect. How does she handle it? Good question.
In a way, the story would have to bear some similarity to how Debbie Elkstalker deals with the same kinds of issues, but since the person and the locale is different the story would have to be different.
The hangup for me is that it would have to involve massive research into two different areas I'm not very familiar with. Norma's Navajo culture would be a tough one for me. I could get away with it in River Rat since I only touch on it superficially, but I'd really have to know something about it to be able to write seriously about it. Now, if I was Tony Hillerman, that part of the problem would be a lot different, but I'm not him, and researching Navajos from as far away as Michigan would not be easy.
The other hangup would be the medical side. This would actually be a little easier to research since the knowledge is a lot more available -- but it still would take a lot of it to be able to make a credible story out of it. Again, if I was a medical professional, no big deal, but I'm not.
I don't mind research, and in fact rather like it, but to have to do that much research on two different issues is daunting, to say the least. There are books where I've had to do quite a bit of research, and River Rat (along with some of the associated books) is one. But at least it was fun research.
I spent months researching Nevada brothels after I realized I needed to do a story about Jennlynn but before I started writing Magic Carpet. Obviously I didn't want to let what I learned go to waste, so let some of it slop over into other stories, but it was fun research because I had questions about that lifestyle that I wanted to have answered, and not just for the sake of the story.
Sometimes the research generates a book, such as in the next book, which I won't discuss right now since I don't want to give away any spoilers, save to say that there is a story behind the story that I will tell when the time is right. But it was fun research exploring an area that was totally strange to me.
Many of my stories involve at least some research, sometimes a lot of it, but at least it's usually fun research on topics that have caught my interest for one reason or another. This is especially true in that I'm not an expert in many of the areas I write about, and one of the questions I ususally have is, "What would it be like to live a life like that?" whether it's dogsledding, river rafting, playing the Celtic harp or what have you. Almost all of my stories are set against the background of uncommon lifestyles or interests or something -- very often ones I'm not personally familiar with.
But to get back to Norma Dieshu and writing about her -- as I said, it would take a heck of a lot of research to write a halfway interesting and intelligent story about her. I could get away with writing about cross-cultural issues in Square One at least partly because I created a fictitous tribe with fictitious customs and beliefs to make it more difficult for someone more familiar with those things than I to call me on them. I couldn't get away with that in writing about a Navajo med student -- there's just too much I could get wrong, and much too easily. The last thing I want to do is get someone mad at me because I've screwed up my interpretation of some traditional belief that I should have understood were I better acquainted with it. Again, if I was Tony Hillerman I would probably feel different about it, but I am not him and don't have the detailed knowledge he had.
So, unfortunately, there probably won't be a book about Norma Dieshu. A shame, since I think I'd like to read it. But, I said "probably," so who knows? I am thinking about it, after all . . .
There are other characters and premises and backgrounds and stories in the works. Right at the moment, I'm still getting one or another of them to gell to the point where I can write about it. Here I am, facing my longest writing weekend of the year without anything in particular to work on, but since I've finished eight books so far this year I'm not all that upset about it. The right idea is just around the corner, and the littlest thing can set me off. Something will come if I just wait for it. I think I've got a few stories left in me -- and fortunately, the backlog waiting for posting is long enough that I can get over flat spots seamlessly in the eye of the reader.