I was involved in several plays in college. One of the characters in a production was a pregnant woman and there was AN ACTUAL PREGNANT WOMAN cast in that role! Perfect! Think of all the research of “pregnant woman movement” she won’t have to do!
When the review was printed in the paper after opening night, her performance was slammed saying something to the effect that she was not at all a believable pregnant woman. She was too thin, and she didn’t move right.
I was so very frustrated at the time, but now I’m so glad for that experience.
In The Summer I Found You I wrote a girl who is diabetic. After doing some research, and talking with a few people, I decided to pattern EVERY SINGLE DIABETIC THING directly off of a high school friend’s experiences. I tweaked her numbers slightly to reflect a little more “text book” numbers for blood sugar because at the time that felt more responsible (I’ve gone back and forth as to whether or not this was the right decision). I’ve been told many, many times that I did well with her, but I’ve also caught wind of how I didn’t get the diabetic thing right. I think my friend would disagree 😉
Not long ago, I read a brilliant book about a girl who is raped, only we’re not quite sure if that’s what happened, and we don’t know who did it-at least not in the beginning. When I really love a book, I get curious about the one star reviews. I found one where the reviewer slammed the author for the portrayal of her character. And then a phrase in the review hit me, “I would never do that.”
Okay, the reviewer would never do that. But does the reviewer know if they would act that way in that situation? Have they been in that situation? And that’s not really the right statement or question, the right question would be, “Did the author make that action believable?”
The thing is, as authors, we’ll never get it right.
My best advice? Do your research. Read blogs, magazine articles, personal histories, and/or talk to people who have experienced something similar to what your character is going through. And then, do whatever you want. Because no matter how much time, effort, and energy you put into something, there will always be people who will say you did it wrong. Just make sure that YOU are happy and have support for the decisions that YOU make as an author.
So when I hear the frustration from first time published authors as to how anyone could not understand X or Y, I want to say – Hey, I knew this pregnant lady in a play…