Monday, September 13, 2010

Progress Report: 9/13/2010

Sometimes, a couple of weeks go by in a blur, and you look up to say, "What happened?"

Ever have that experience? Yeah, me too.

In terms of progress, more queries are out to more agents. No nibbles yet, and the search continues. Don't let anybody tell you this isn't a grueling process.

What's also grueling is the novel intro to Thunderstruck, and I'll tell you why. It's Sharon's situation as she's paralyzed. If you go back to the beginning of the strip, you notice that I don't spend a lot of time on Sharon's wheelchair days. That's mostly an evasion on my part, trying to get on with the lightning bolt and the magic and stuff. It's also a bit of a cheat.

So on this go-round I wanted to give Sharon's wheelchair life a fair shake. That means doing the research on what it's actually like paraplegics in day-to-day life, which is exactly the sort of legwork I was lazily attempting to avoid when I set out on the comic. And I find myself writing about a group of people from an outsider's perspective, and wanting to make sure I don't drop the ball.

Sharon is depressed. Now, the stats suggest that people with paraplegia are more likely to be depressed than the general populace... except it's fiendishly hard to get a read on how depressed the general populace is. And one aspect of a severe spinal injury is that you by necessity end up seeing the doctor more often than the average joe, and therefore you've got professional eyes looking for depression. So one could suggest there isn't as big a disparity as the study I linked to above suggest.

But even more so, as I research and read what more paraplegic's have to say about their condition, I want to do right by them. It's natural for someone with all working limbs to look at someone in a wheelchair and think, "Boy, I would be depressed as hell if that happened to me." That's a pity reflex. It's understandable, but it's also kind of condescending. There are a lot of paraplegics who justifiably get pissed off at that, and say, "You may think there's something wrong with me, but I don't. I love my life."

When you're writing a character, it is that one individual. Sharon is supposed to be representative of Sharon, not an entire group of people. As things stand now, though, I don't have any other wheelchair-bound characters in Thunderstruck, so in a way, she does stand for a whole group of people. Which is both fair and unfair. For instance, if you see a story where you have one woman who is an absolute beast, it's always nice for there to be at least one other woman character who is more sympathetic, so you don't come away thinking, "Man, that author has some screwed-up ideas about women."

So that's the balancing act with the early Sharon chapters of Thunderstruck here. It's going along.


Josafat said...

something along those lines has happened to me. I don´t remember when exactly that happened but I was introduced to a wheelchair-bound person and I was stuck with: Do I ask about what happened, would that make me seem nosy or do I act like everything is alrigth? woult that make me insensitive and in the end I didn't say anything except hi and bye to that person.

Loved thunderstruck and I'm rooting for you, I really would love to read a novel version of the webcomic.


Robert said...

I've been noticing a similar situation with the e-novel I'm currently writing. One of the characters is an FBI agent (though I'm still hammering out details on specifics on the character). But I'm realizing that I need to know more about how the FBI operates, even if the story is set twenty years in the future.

Likewise, I'm doing research into Boston, MA, seeing that I'm having a bit of the story set there. This has an extra twist, as the timeline diverged in 1996 (at which point there was a huge fire in Boston), so I need to research how Boston was in 1996 and extrapolate how things would not have developed in 34 years. It's easy to just toss things out and ignore the reality... but to tell the best story, you need to do research.

And the fun thing is, this is just for an e-book that I'm posting on my site, rather than something I'll try to get published. I guess the good writers are those who take that extra effort to get things right.

In short: keep up the research, even if it's not long-term with Sharon. Besides, there's always flashbacks. ^^

Rob H.