Something I am struggling with when writing A Year in Mondays has been the balance between my personal experiences, the overarching experience of having children, and Julie’s specific story. It is difficult sometimes to separate my experiences (and those of people around me) from those I have read on the internet, for example.
So in choosing Julie’s story, it became far more research intensive than I initially thought because I was worried about picking the wrong pieces of her story, or accidentally writing myself instead of Julie. In fact, I was so worried that I almost didn’t write the story at all. But before I gave up, I decided to research the experiences of others and really flesh out Julie’s story.
For example, my first child was a big learning curve, and this seems to be a relatively uniform experience for new parents. When I dug deeper into research, though, everyone’s particular difficulties were so unique. I had to think if Julie is the kind of woman who hides her troubles or the kind who calls her doctor at the first sign of trouble. Does she have a support system? What is the temperament of her baby? All of these things would alter her story significantly.
I researched more than I ever thought possible and Julie’s story grew more and more concrete and fleshed out as compared to when she walked into my head. By the time I had finished my research, her story was so far from my own and so firmly laid out that I no longer felt worried about accidentally writing myself in. I think this is the most research I have ever done before starting a book! Of course that isn’t saying much since this is my second book and I wrote the first one with no research until I was partway through the book!
Now, I am sure that Julie’s story was one that rings true without being a carbon copy of any one person’s experience (at least not anyone I know).
Have you ever feared you were writing yourself into your story? Have you ever researched yourself into such a circle that you weren’t sure what you wanted to use and what would have to fall by the wayside? What types of things do you research and figure out before you begin a story?