Friday, 26 November 2010

Touchy Subjects

Welcome to my living room. It is apparently minus four degrees outside, but the central heating's bubbling away, the fire is glowing and I'd like nothing more than to sit around for the entire morning chatting with you all about various touchy sujects. I've made a huge pot of porridge oats and there's coffee and tea. Help yourselves.

The other day I overheard a conversation between someone who was dyslexic and a superior. The dyslexic person was nervous and agitated, having been told 'I don't bloody well care about your literary skills, just get it down on paper, spelling mistakes and all.' There were other things said, but for the purposes of this post I won't go into them. I could tell the dyslexic person was very upset and felt sorry for them.

Now, I'd really like to speak to this person. In my current novel, one of my secondary characters is dyslexic. But I can't just go up to them and ask them, can I?

It's the same with divorce, death, the loss of a baby, the loss of a child, living life in a wheelchair, deafness ... the list of touchy subjects is endless.

How do you get into the heads of your characters when they are dealing with a touchy subject? Do you just go ahead and ask someone you know (and risk offending them) or do you carry out your research in more subtle ways?


Leatherdykeuk said...

Good question -- I've no idea. I generally don't write uch things unless I have experience of them so I can't help, I'm afraid.

sheepish said...

That is a really interesting question. I would think that as long as you make your request tactfully and in private I can't see there would be a problem. And of course be prepared to have your request denied with no further questions asked. I think often 'touchy subjects' are in the eye of the beholder. You may be surprised by the responses you get. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I tend to rely on the Internet. I know that's cheating but there's often the answer via a Facebook friend or someone on Twitter! After that, I would ask.

When I was researching for my novel, Breaking Ice, I tried to contact a few vicars (a vicar is one of my MC's)but unfortunately, I got nowhere fast. Probably because the book is paranormal.... But I guess we have to try!

CJ xx

Cathy said...

I don't think I would ask someone unless I knew them very well, and even then I would very much fictionalise and change any answer they gave, as it is all too easy to misunderstand. I tend to use blogs and forums as a source of information, it's surprising how many hints you can find to build a character or storyline on, without invading the privacy of someone you know in person.

Karen said...

God, I wish we had central heating at the moment!

I've never had this problem, though I did write a story about autism once based on my friend's experiences with her daughter.

I would probably look on the internet for answers, as you may find personal testimonies and it's less personal than asking someone directly :o)

andewallscametumblindown said...

I have used forums before. People are more likely to pour out their feelings anonymously in a forum than they are when you ask them directly.

That said, I think I've reached a stage where I don't hold much back any more, so if anyone wants to ask me about social anxiety, ask away. ~Miriam

Debs said...

Great question.

If I don't know someone well enough to feel able to approach them, then I'll read books/articles written by people with whatever matter I'm wanting to write about.

Fia said...

I think it depends on just how touchy the subject is. And you can ask me anything you like about dyslexia as, apparently, mine is pretty severe. Although not as bad as the Fonze's.

I'm doing some research into ww2 and have had to give my husband's service number to the group captain of an airbase to get some info. He was understandably touchy about it.

Rowan Coleman said...

I'm dyslexic - you can ask me what you like, anytime!! I am finding this with my book which deals with some very difficult subjects. But I do think its important to do them justice so I've made contact confidentially with a few people who have had first hand experience of what I'm writing about. They have been so helpful, honest and genuine, mainly concerned that I get it right, so I'm pleased I took the steps to find them. A few years ago I wrote a novella on domestic abuse and at the time talked to women who'd been directly affected by the problem. I think it gave an edge to what otherwise might have been a token issue.

Annieye said...

Thanks to everyone for all this brilliant feedback.

I definitely think speaking to someone personally, rather than using the good old internet, gives a character the 'edge', but the internet and forums, etc., will always yield information, no matter how touchy the subject!