Isn’t it just that little bit annoying when you get around to doing that pesky bit of research for your novel and realise it doesn’t really work how you needed it to?
I’m through to Chapter 6 of my first round of novel editing and I’ve marked in a lot of ‘research’ clauses so far. Today I sat down and picked out the major one, knowing that it would probably highlight some red flags I’d need to address.
Yes, well – I now have a pretty big red flag metaphorically sitting smack bang in the middle of my living room.
Here’s the issue: My protagonist (recently identified as) Dr Whalley wants to contact his patient’s – Madeline (antagonist) – husband. Except, she hasn’t registered him as next of kin (she hasn’t recorded ANY next of kin) but neither has she explicitly stated she did not want him to contact any one. It’s a bit of a grey area. In the end I need Dr Whalley to choose to contact Madeline’s husband without her consent despite this being a pretty serious breach of professional conduct…
I’ve already started working into the story instances where Dr Whalley has ‘interfered’ in his patient’s affairs by contacting their families and/or friends previously, in order that his patients do not die alone (he works as a palliative care physician) and with regret. He strongly believes he is doing the right thing and this is a key aspect of his character.
So far he’s always got away with it. One of his Nurse colleagues who used to help him – and has lied for him in the past – has been warning him off any future interest into his patient’s background because she feels he is becoming too personally involved and occasionally taking things too far from a professional standpoint. Therefore he’s moved on to enlisting the help of his lover, Nurse Betsy, who agrees with his assertion that people should not die alone in a room without some friendly support. There might be some scope to work in the possible hope that (if things go wrong) his dutiful lover might take the fall for him.
I think it’s important to ensure that I get the balance right here: he can’t do anything too risky – otherwise he could lose his job – but neither can I have him do nothing because…well, that’s not really how novels work is it?
Protagonists have to make decisions and act on them and then deal with the consequences. My big problem here is that, currently, there are no professional consequences for Dr Whalley when he contacts people from Madeline’s past, and I’m beginning to realise that perhaps there should be.
So yes, it’s annoying because there is an entire angle of my protagonist’s story that I am going to have to work in and I don’t have the current knowledge to do it. I also don’t want to stop editing to delve into research just yet, because I’m enjoying this round of edits and I don’t want to find something else later on that will stall me again. Although I have to admit, this additional angle to the story, could certainly up the ante when it comes to creating a climatic end!
What I’ve decided to do is to continue editing. I’ll make notes as I go, identifying sections that could be added in to work up this possible new angle of an investigation into Dr Whalley’s professional conduct, and keep it in mind as I’m editing other, more minor, issues. Hopefully this should allow me to continue the flow of editing, but also give me some leeway to see where I can improve the plot, heighten tension and really make the story as gripping as it can be.