I’ve talked about the creepiness of research when I was learning about plane crashes. Well, I’m researching again…
Originally, in Julia, I had two characters with the same disease — one that occurs in 1 in 3000 live births. Despite the span of miles and years, the coincidence was too much.
Luckily, I bought a medical textbook a few years ago. Yes, that’s right. At the annual library book sale, I bought a thirty-year-old medical text book that’s full of words I have to look up on the internet. Ah, yes, symptoms include angioneurotic edema*. I heard doctors on ER throw around edema a lot, but that’s about the extent of my medical knowledge.
So, between this text book and the internet, I’m fascinated. Look at all these new diseases that I could inflict on one of the two characters!
It’s very odd, playing God like this. It’s like those car comparison sites. I’d like a sun roof, but don’t want that color interior. Only, I’m saying that I need a disease that will do X, and since this disease also does Y, it’s out.
Pulling the strings to make a character do what I want is one thing, having them make bad choices in a book is another, and dooming them to painful diseases is something altogether different. Oddly, I don’t feel the need to protect the characters from the medical terms I’m dumping on them…not the same way I want them to make the right choices even though, if they did, there’d be no book. But I’m also not gleefully rubbing my hands saying, take that angioneurotic edema and I’ll raise you some angiitis**.
I’m very detached. I need specific things out of this disease, so I’m rather objective in my search. And that’s what’s so weird about it. I am attached to my characters…except for during this research.
Have you ever done something to your characters with surprising ease or difficulty?
*Angioneurotic edema, by the way, is a recurring, inflammatory swelling of the skin.
**Angiitis, yes, that’s the spelling, is inflammation of a blood vessel or lymph duct.