When Research Becomes a Little Too Real

February 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Craft, Fiction, Writing Tips

Repost from Guest blog on http://brandyheineman.wordpress.com

“I grab some cookies to snack on while I read, & next thing I know, there’s an autopsy happening. Well played, Ms Conroy. Well played. ;)”

This Tweet from @brandyhei  while she was reading my autopsy scene in Digging Up Death got me thinking… do readers really know what authors go through to bring life their scenes? In my latest mystery, Digging Up Death, which by the way is more symbolic than actually digging up dead people, there is one autopsy scene, a sort of turning point for my character’s growth and self discovery. In writing the scene, I wanted to evoke several visceral responses, but the problem was I never attended an autopsy and didn’t ever plan on it since I’m quite squeamish at the sight of blood let alone scalpels piercing skin! {SHIVER}But I knew in order to create a visceral response in my readers, I would first have to experience it myself.

So where does an author go or research without attending a live (dead?) autopsy? Why Youtube, of course! And to my surprise there were several autopsy videos to choose from. Yeah, creeping me out just thinking about it. Did I actually want to view an autopsy on the YouTube, nope, but for the sake of art, I did. And let me tell you the TV autopsy we watch on CSI and every other crime drama, nope, doesn’t cut it! Pun intended.

Like Mari Duggins in Digging Up Death, I was already disconnected from the autopsy via a second hand experience, but I knew how squeamish I’d be and I more than taking notes on what I was seeing, I wanted to take notes on what I was feeling!

So I took a deep breath and pressed play. The naked body on the table was surreal at first as I took in the scene. So far so good… then the M.E. raised the scalpel and I raised my hand to my face peeking through my fingers like people do while watching a horror movie. As the knife pierced the skin, I noted the incision, then I noticed my emotions.

And they surprised me.

But I’m not going to reveal what I actually felt here. That would spoil YOUR visceral response when you read the autopsy scene in Digging Up Death. What I am going to do is offer one commenter a chance to win an ebook copy of the book so you can read and experience it yourself.

Writers strive to bring realism to our stories. Sometimes we can pull from our emotions, other times we have to step out of our comfort zone and pull from Youtube. But in the end, if readers are pulled into the story and the emotion of the moment comes through, then it was worth it, even watching an autopsy through spread fingers.

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