One of the best things about being a fiction writer is the freedom. Freedom to set the office dress code (running clothes). Freedom to adopt a late-late-night writing shift (I’ve never been much of a nine-to-fiver). And freedom to write what I am most passionate about.
And because I write “made-up” stories, surely I have an additional freedom: freedom from research—right?
While fiction writers are allowed to take some liberties, there are times when we have no choice but to check our facts. The last thing I need, for example, is a tech-savvy twelve-year-old discounting my entire novel because his mother, a Silicon Valley telecommunications expert, has explained how dropped cellphone calls work–only to find that the author got those facts wrong.
I can’t have my credibility going down the crapper–so I research.
In Vanish, my recent middle-grade release, I did extensive research about parental child abductions. Here is some of the information I learned:
- Do not assume an abducted child is safe because he/she is with a parent.
- Abducted children suffer emotional trauma due to their lack of contact with the left-behind parent whom they are often told no longer loves them or has died.
- The social, educational and health needs of an abducted child are often compromised because of the abducting parent’s obsession with concealing the child’s identity.
- Abducted children live secluded lives and often are not permitted to form any connections beyond the abducting parent.
- Parental abduction is an act of anger; not of love.
While I don’t overtly state these facts in Vanish, they are among the “great bulk” that supports the story–hopefully grounding my novel and offering my middle-grade readers a richer, more compelling reading experience with their quiet presence.