Have you ever sat down to write and realized you have no idea what an undertaker does? I don’t mean in the abstract that they bury dead people, but what is their process? I’ve had this internal crisis anytime I assign an occupation to any of my characters. I then begin a very long and very disturbing dive into that profession, specifically in medieval Italy (culturally the closest to my story’s setting). I learnt more than I want to know about decomposition, bodily fluids and inadvertent mummification. I only feel slightly more qualified to accurately describe my character’s daily life.
On the other hand, I have some very memorable small talk for those parties that I intend to duck out of early but leave an impression (I miss those days, but I am ready for them).
While much of my very random trivia has come from doing research for my writing, it can be time consuming and sometimes exhausting. The simplest way I have learnt to overcome it is to remember I am dealing in fiction. The facts of the real world are only as relevant as I want them to be. Finding out that a priest and family handled the final rites in Medieval Italy does not mean that I can’t have an undertaker in my fictional world. I have just learnt more of what he can do.
Research if you feel you need it. Or don’t. I always have a little anxiety about being exposed as a fraud if my writing does not accurately describe something. Then I remember I never claimed to be an expert in that field. I can barely claim to be an expert in the fields that I studied in. There will be always be critics, like my cat. He didn’t appreciate my rendition of him.
Leave a Reply