Wednesday, February 07, 2018

I did my research, please please please can I tell you?

My crime novel features an ex-undercover detective (female, NYPD), and her teenage son who happens to be on the Autism spectrum. Both of these things play a major role in the plot. In fact, the plot would not exist without both of those things.

Now, I am not an ex-undercover detective, but my husband of thirty years is. I've listened to him discuss his job so often, I feel the lingo is my lingo. I ran all the details and relevant plot points past him multiple times to make sure I was accurate. Neither am I on the Autism spectrum, but my son is. I have spent countless years not just researching this condition, but living it, with him, with other families.

In other words, I believe my novel has very a very solid base in reality, but I have no idea how to include this in a query. I've read a few of your posts where you say not to mention that a book is well researched, because you expect it to be. Neither do I want to bring my son into the picture because that's his life and it's his privacy.

But on the other hand, I want to make sure it's clear I'm not basing my details on episodes of the Wire (even though, according to my husband, those would be very authentic details), or jumping on the latest non-neurotypical bandwagon.

I've been churning this question around in my head for a few months, and now that I'm nearing the point when I'll be writing a query, I'm no closer to knowing how to handle this.

When I read your query, I don't wonder who you talked to or how you got your details right. I read the story you're telling.

Now, there will always be those stick-in-the-mud, purse-lipped, accuracy hooligans who tsk tsk that you put apples in a story set in Rome in 366, when EVERYONE KNOWS!! apples didn't arrive in Rome until 369!! but honestly, those folks just look for things to tsk at. They do it for sport; it makes them feel smart and superior. For them, a story loses authenticity if any detail is inaccurate.

Now, I'm somewhat exactly the same way about historical dates, and geography. I've never quite recovered from one of my clients talking about 4th Avenue near Grand Central Station**, but I'm also aware of my persnickety tendencies and do my best to keep my head in the story.

Most people reading a book about NYC won't bat an eye if someone sets a scene at Pershing Square*** , or runs an FBI surveillance van west on 40th Street****. Maybe not even New Yorkers if they're caught up in the story.

You do want to get the details right, and it sounds like you took great pains to do so, but the reason you do so is is not for the accuracy it's so no one gets yanked out of the story by a jarring note like traffic going the wrong way on 40th Street.

All this to say: My working assumption is your book is accurate. Telling me you how it got that way doesn't bolster your cause.

And just a reminder: it's a novel. You can make ALL of it up, and not be doing anything wrong.

Which brings us to authenticity. Authenticity is not the same as accuracy and I know we're going to have some spirited discussion about this in the comment column (bring it on!)

It is entirely accurate to say the movie The Proposal is about a New York City book editor who faces deportation to Canada. If you think The Proposal is an authentic rendition of publishing, well, step right over here for a bop on the noggin.

And yet, a gazillion people loved that movie, and more than two zillion of them actually work in publishing. It's not accurate or authentic, but who cared? (Well, of course, those purse-lipped, persnickety hooligans mentioned above, but remember, we're always yapping about something.)

Bottom line: accuracy and authenticity serve the story. I don't care how accurate, how authentic you are if I don't care about your story. To flip that: I don't read a story because it's accurate or authentic. I have the New York Times for that.

Focus your query on the story. Let me worry about your car ending up in the East River if you've gone across town for 27 blocks.

**4th Avenue exists only for about four blocks
between 14th and 8th Streets (near Union Square).
Farther uptown it's Mad, Park, and Lex twixt 5th and 3rd Aves

***Pershing Square is a restaurant near the Park Avenue overpass by Grand Central.

****Generally traffic runs east on even numbered streets in Manhattan.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Sorry for the length of this comment but you know that nail everybody hits the head of, today’s post holds the hammer.

Ten years ago I wrote a novel with a pants blowing surprise so astonishing and miraculous that I barely believed it could happen. It was perfect for the story, I loved it but I had serious doubts that such a thing could take place. (Non-fiction brain at work) If my journalistic mind couldn’t believe it, how the hell could I expect a reader to believe it? No backup, I shelved the novel.
And then, a year ago:
By chance, a memoir came to light which proves my scenario as 100% possible because it absolutely happened to someone. I read the guy’s book, I watched him on a TED talk. He is a miracle man.
Should I mention this backup evidence in a query? Hell no.
I resurrected the old manuscript (to read as a reader, not as the writer) and man-oh-man I am going places I never thought my reading/writing mind would take me. And this is from someone who has sworn off writing fiction.
For me authenticity and great writing are key.
OP, I don’t need to know that you know, just make me believe that you know it.

Theresa said...

"'s a novel. You can make ALL of it up." Yep.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Wow, that bit about the apples in Rome fascinated me but a quick dash into the intriguing rabbit hole about Rome's foods but it didn't elicit any of that date info.

Opie: Thank you for posing the question. And congrats on having a WiP just about ready to query. Best wishes on that leg of the publication road.

The difference between accuracy and authenticity. Perhaps I'll look that up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I don't think Kory Stamper mentioned it in her book!! Of course, I've not quite finished reading it yet.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

There's another factor that comes into play here: confidence. When you're confident you've got the details right, readers notice. I can't count how many sci fi novels I've read that lacked confidence-- those are the ones with paragraphs of explanation shoe-horned into the middle of the story. Authors who use obscure science confidently use explanations sparingly. Often, they completely abuse science in the process (one of my favorites is Jurassic Park). Moral? I don't care if the details are manipulated for the sake of the story, as long as the story is good.

Of course, with something like Autism or another real-life challenge that people struggle with, accurate info does matter. A lot. But no one's going to get hurt if you fudge on spacetime physics.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yeah, what the shark said. The writer needs the reader to believe - little else matters. That is done with voice - make the reader suspend their disbelief and all the research you did or did not do matters not at all. Tell a great story.

Colin Smith said...

The word of the day is verisimilitude. For fiction, as long as it is plausible within the would you're writing, chances are the reader will buy it. Your real life experience doesn't credential you, but helps you give that verisimilitude to your made up story.

I recently completed a short story, some of which takes place in Manhattan. Could I have written it without having ever been to Manhattan? Yes! Google maps is the writer's friend. But based on my visit last January, I was able to add some sensory detail not available in Google that added some flavor to the story. There's stuff I made up for the sake of the story, but as long as you feel as if you're in NYC, who cares?

All the best with your novel, Opie! ☺

Unknown said...

My WIP has a totally fabricated organized crime compound in Wisconsin. The time it takes to get there from Chicago is accurate to the minute.

Colin Smith said...

* within the world you're writing... Did I mention HATE typing on my phone? 😠

Mister Furkles said...

The play “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” is set in the eleventh century. Hamlet was, at the time of his father’s death, studying at the University of Wittenberg. But, as everybody knew, that university was founded in 1502. Ha! And that is why “Hamlet” was a total flop. The entire audience sat, or stood, tsk-tsking over this obvious faux pas. And so it has never been performed since.

Okay, if Shakespeare can do it, you can too.

Number one: write a great story in compelling prose. Everything else is number two and can be fixed.

And number one is easy; we’ve all done it many times, Ha ha!

Unknown said...

Accuracy prevents this:

Was watching BBC's Father Brown a few days ago. A character started to sing Morning has Broken. Seemed off to me, so I spent five minutes googling to see when the song came out (70s) and when the show is set (50s). I can't tell you anything else about the story because I got so caught up in how the writers could make such an obvious mistake.

Timothy Lowe said...

"Bop on the noggin" has to be one of my favorite phrases of all time.

Colin Smith said...

Kathy The Cat Stevens version was from 1971, but the original hymn was written in 1931. So you can enjoy Father Brown again. However, I don't know that I can read your comment any more... 😉

Claire Bobrow said...

This brings to mind the famous scene in The Graduate when Benjamin drives "towards" Berkeley on the top level of the Bay Bridge. And the movie sank like a stone and was never heard of again :-)

OP: as long as we don't end up in the East River, or on the Bay Bridge going the wrong way, I'll hop in your car and go for a ride.

***And in today's episode of the Twilight Zone, while at SCBWI-NY last weekend, I ate at Pershing Square not once, but twice! I can recommend the short ribs.

Craig F said...

There's some traffic consistency in NYC? I had never realized that. It always looked like a mob scene to me.

A well done narrative arc can hide a multitude of sins. You can never beat all of the little tics that knock people out of a shallow story. Keep the narrative arc deeply entrenched and it is harder for all the little nuts to pop from that trench.

A good query will convey the gist of that narrative arc and not all of the minute details. Sounds simple.

A Day Late: Congrats to Melissa and all of those who entered the past contest. I was on the east coast of my state waiting to see the Big Frigging Rocket blast off. It actually shook the water. That would have been cool except that tsunami warning still held a spot in my mind as I sat on a paddleboard along with a few friends.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

So just playing the devil's advocate a bit:

Yes, first you have to write a great book. BUT...if authenticity isn't a selling point, why does my publisher lean into my rodeo/ranching background in their marketing for my western romances? And my agent always mentions it when discussing my books (SHE REALLY DOES THIS STUFF.) And readers continually comment on the fact that they love the depth I bring to the page, knowing that I know what I'm talking about. As a reader, I like to see that an author has personal experience in their subject matter because I can trust (hopefully) that what I learn from them is accurate, and I can nearly always see it in the richness of the world they build (again, assuming excellent writing). For those reasons, if I were an agent I would like to see a single sentence about Opie's background in a query because if I love this book, it tells me the author has a deep well of experience to draw from for future work, and a unique selling point that might tip them over the edge with a publisher who's trying to decide between this book and that one, because marketing often rules the day.

Colin Smith said...

Kari: Might the difference have something to do with how central those details are to the entire premise of your story? If your novel is set in the rodeo, where the lifestyle and culture of the rodeo are integral to your characters and the plot, then the author's life experience is certainly a selling point. But if your characters and plot hold together even if you're giving just the appearance of authenticity, and your personal experience is lacking, perhaps it doesn't matter so much...?

RachelErin said...

I do think the issues of crime detective accuracy and autistic representation are very different. Janet's comments make a lot of sense for a job or a location, but lived experience of neurodiversity is more sensitive, because a good story with bad representation does real harm to people. (The Accountant, anyone? - I've had people ask me how common assassination savants are among autistic people...really not good).

I write about autism for my job a lot, and it's also very important in my WIP, so I've done a lot of research on writing about it both scientifically and in fiction. Without taking away from your life experience, I've noticed that autism experts and parents of kids with autism talk about life and the condition VERY differently from autistic people (Intentionally NOT using person first language).

If you haven't already, I would spend some time on forums and Tumblr where people with autism write about their own experiences (I only say this because most parents I've met hang out on blogs and forums with other parents, not so much those run by and for autistic folks). I often run into sticky spots where faculty want me to say something one way (Often based on parent feedback or research convention) when I've heard from a multitude of sources with autism that there is a strong preference for another frame or language.

It's also true that when you represent something like that, especially autism where there is such a huge range of experiences, there will always be somebody who doesn't like it. So do your best but don't think it's possible to make everyone happy =).

RachelErin said...

Oh, and I also wanted to share my favorite movie bloopers.

First, in When Harry Met Sally they leave the University of Chicago (my alma mater) and drive NORTH on Lake Shore Drive on their way to NYC. Nope nope nopity nope. Still love the movie.

The one I can't handle is Troy, where they have a shot of the sun coming up over the water from the POV of someone standing with the city behind them - so, someone facing West. I knew some of the experts they consulted with on the show, so Somebody told them they had the sun coming up on the wrong side. But the producers and directors obviously thought the shot was more important than physical reality.

Joseph S. said...

I’m still not completely clear on this.

I’ve read that if, say, you’re writing a police procedure thriller, you should mention you’ve been a police detective for thirty years (if that’s the case), but not mention your background if, for example, you’ve been a real estate agent. If that’s true, shouldn’t OP add her background as a credibility factor?

If I understood Janet Reid’s answer, there’s no reason for OP to mention the two matters in her query. Two things. Some agent might care. Also, OP may want to mention it anyway. How should she do it?

P.S. – Are we any closer to determining why (not just theories) there’s been such an increase in Autism the past twenty years or so?

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Well we know apples show up pretty early, otherwise all those Greek myths concerning them wouldn't work.... ;)

I actually stopped reading the Stuart Woods Orchid Beach books (the ones with the Doberman named Daisy) because we are told more than once in the very first one that Daisy is "special". And then....we're never shown it at all. Daisy isn't really a character. She certainly isn't on par with my Elka, and Elka isn't any kind of double champion schutzhund star (though neither is Daisy? We're never told WHY Daisy is special just that she is).

But, in my household, we've also decided that "Unnecessarily Specific" is my next band name.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Also, 2NNs, are you perhaps feeling the fictional itch again????

Bethany Elizabeth said...

As a side note--I remember my geophysics professor offering extra credit for anyone who went to see San Andreas. There were no other requirements. We didn't have to write an essay on why it was ridiculous, we didn't need to protest the science, none of that. She just really wanted us to see it.

But the one thing that got her goat (and this is a movie where the Rock sails up a 70 degree tsunami wave just before it breaks) was that the San Andreas fault is a classic right lateral strike-slip slope, and the movie made it left lateral. Boy oh boy, did we hear about that one!

Although there IS a disaster movie that includes relatively accurate geology: Dante's Peak. It's loosely based on the St Helen's eruption (pyroclastic flow, anyone?) and is surprisingly accurate. The acid river is a little much, though.

Julie Weathers said...

I appreciate it when authors try to get things right. Getting stuff wrong about horses drives me nuts. "My rescuer stole two horses from the Americans, but threw away the bridles because the cruel metal bit would savage a horse's tongue. I would have to learn to ride like an Indian with a soft leather loop in the horse's mouth instead."

Yup, in the trash with you, my darling.

I have maps of Charleston in 1861 and know which street St. John's is on. I also know it will burn down a couple of years after my MC prays in the beautiful church.

People are going to pick details apart in Rain Crow that are fact. I've decided to start blogging about them now and offer up references to try to head off some of the criticism. I won't be able to please everyone and that's all right. It's a novel, not the second coming of Shelby Foote.

I'm not going to tell agents in the query I have over 600 Civil War books etc. crammed in my abode and harass historians on a regular basis.

If the authenticity doesn't come through, none of this matters.

Beth Carpenter said...

My neighbor once went door to door to ask if anyone had seen a small leather case. It seems he dabbles in diamonds, and had set a case of them on his bumper while he packed something in in his truck. He then drove off, losing the case somewhere along the way.

I've often played with the idea of using this in a story, but his being so careless with a case of diamonds is just too much of a stretch for authenticity, even if it is accurate.

Carolyn Haley said...

Some of those "those stick-in-the-mud, purse-lipped, accuracy hooligans" are also called "copyeditors," and part of their job is to spot anomalies that might embarrass the author and cause readers to stop reading or, worse, toss the book over their shoulder and diss the author in public forums. Copyeditors have no way of knowing of whether an anomaly is intentional or something the author forgot to check. Once advised of the nitpick, the author can then decide what to do about it. It's not helpful to us to make us out as people interfering with an author's creativity; rather, we're interested in a story's verisimilitude and author's credibility.

Elissa M said...

OP, perhaps you could put a line in your bio at the end of the query. After any relevant publishing credits, you can say something like, "I have been married for thirty years to a former undercover detective and raised a wonderful son who is on the Autism spectrum." Only write it better than that, of course.

That way the info doesn't clog up the query, but you've still informed the agent of your background.

Julie Weathers said...

Kari Lynn

Whenever I promote your books, and I do every chance I get, I always mention "Kari is the real deal. She's a rancher, champion cowgirl, rodeo expert, all around good gal with a great sense of humor and writes awesome books." I wouldn't do this if it weren't true. I do this because I read very few western romances. They mostly make me want to throttle authors, editors, and publishers, which isn't a good thing. Plus, whether you have anything to do with it or not I don't know, but you don't have those vapid, oiled up, hairless, shirtless nitwits on the cover with their pants down so low you can nearly see Mr. Happy.

"Why, yes, ma'am, we always oil up and go shirtless to stack hay. It's the cowboy way."

Sam Mills said...

I've got police in the family, so we gleefully lambast the more ludicrous popular errors in shows and movies (you can't go tasting random substances to see if it's a drug! defibrillators don't restart hearts, they STOP them!!). On the other hand, we love the original RoboCop. It's not pretending to be accurate or authentic in any way. So I'd say it's a mysterious combination of the tone of the work and the expected knowledge of the intended audience. I'm a reader that appreciates the detail, so grill your husband, grill him!! :D

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

I'm going to have to come back and re-read this after the caffeine has kicked in because halfway through I started down the "I bet I could write a story that intentionally has them driving east on 40th Street!" rabbit hole and I'm pretty sure that wasn't the point of the post.

Julie Weathers said...


If it relates to the book, the OP can and should put it in the bio section. In this case, it does because this is what her book is about.

If I were writing a mystery about Paris fashion, I would have no reason to mention my past life as a stablehand at the Biltmore. If I were writing a mystery about a Paris fashion designer dying in the Biltmore stables, it might be a bit more pertinent.

Gayle said...

For me, the most important thing as a reader, is how a story makes me feel. That's why I can re-read books. I don't remember the details, or sometimes even what happens beyond a general sense, but how a book makes me feel can stay with me forever and I re-read so I can feel that way again.

So I guess my philosophy is that if the details don't effect the emotional core of the book, it's great to have them correct and people will probably nitpick them if they aren't, but it's not the end of the world. But if they are details that DO effect the emotional core, like the experience of someone on the autism spectrum, or dealing with the aftereffects of rape or loss or how it feels to be a POC living in America today--the authenticity of experience revealed through those details is super important.

That said, everyone's experience is different and what's true to one person's experience may not be true to another, which is why there needs to be more diversity in publishing so there are more and more experiences out there for people to relate to. There's been a lot of interesting discussion on Twitter I've seen about #ownvoices

sorry for the long comment. It got away from me.

Steve Stubbs said...

Dang! And I was going to smell the roses at Madison Squsre Garden.

Can I get a jump start at Battery Park?

I used to live on Lexington Ave, so for the welfare of my erstwhile neighbors, I am glad it is still there.

There is one additional issue nobody mentioned. In one of my learning expriences I researched how Joseph P. Kennedy and Co. engineered the stock market crash of 1929. Economists whose books I consulted professed to not have a clue (and if you believe THAT), so, being a former stock trader, I asked myself how I would do it were I Joe.

It took about ten seconds to figure it out.

I wrote it into the story and was dressed down sternly by a beta reader who happens to be right wing. That happened by ACCIDENT, she wanted me to know, and it was pure blind luck that all the money men on the East Coast knew exactly when to hold, when to fold, when to walk away, and so on.

Not true.

I made up the dialogue, but I know how they did it.

The lesson is: no matter what you say, you are going to get into somebody's belief system.

Re the current selloff: I was warning friends several weeks ago to close their long positions. Since I obviously don't know anything, nobody listened. Maybe they will believe me next time.

Now all the talking heads on TV say they knew it was coming. Yet not a single one of them said anything before it happened.

Richelle Elberg said...

I've been watching a lot of movies this year, as I decided to try my hand at writing a screenplay. On Amazon, when you stream a movie, you can also read 'Trivia' which is FILLED with goofs, errors, etc. I was astounded at the number of them--but of course almost never noticed when in the middle of watching. Same concept--if the story's got you hooked, these things don't matter a great deal.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

What gets me is errors with small airplanes. I remember a book by a favorite author which had the main character owning a private plane and they go out to the airfield, hop in it and take off.
Nope. Good way to get killed.

PAH said...

As someone who works at an Ad Agency, I can say I LOVE how movies and TV portray the industry.

Regarding the topic: I think, as a reader, I crave LOGIC more than ACCURACY. I really don't care if a story is accurate (unless it's just blatantly ridiculous, I guess) but it has to be logical, and it has to fit the logical reality the author created for the story. So many stories worry about accuracy and fail on the logic. It's frustrating.

Casey Karp said...

And then there are those of us who commit alternate history. Intentionally, I mean.

There's a reason why so much of it is set well after the point where fictional history has diverged from reality. It's tough to write with sufficient authenticity to boost the reader over those "But that's not the way it happened!" moments.

I've mercifully forgotten the author and title of the otherwise-enjoyable alternate history novel that gave me three separate "Hey, that's not right--oh, wait" moments.

npholland said...

Maybe this is not the correct post to put this on, but I believe these suggestions/statements hold true for non earth fiction as well. Whereas no one can definitively say your accuracy is incorrect in a created world, just keep verisimilitude (excellent word Colin) the same throughout your story. The readers are there to find their own world within your world. They are not there to point out everything that is off even within the confines of your own creation.

Inktruffle said...

As someone who is autistic, it bothers me deeply that the author is so concerned about the research that went into the police parts of the novel, and not the autism parts. I'm having some red flags that this autistic character being autistic is pivotal to the plot, and yet the author doesn't seem to say anything about their research into autism. Replace the word 'autism' with any other label and understand why this is a problem.

Megan V said...

Belated congrats to Melissa for a brilliant and humorous story!

Re: today’s post, you can count me among the persnickety in a broad sense when I beta or Cp for anyone. In that respect I think a good beta/cp will point out those inconvenient details that detract from the verisimilitude of the story. When it comes down to it you are writing a novel and you can make everything up. That doesn’t mean that you should make literally everything up. Accurate details can play a part in making a story feel authentic. That’s why research is so important, and someone who doesn’t do any research at all, who doesn’t attempt to utilize the wealth of information that’s available is not only potentially being disrespectful, but also could be potentially causing real world harm. So I am definitely among those who will tell someone that no, that cannot happen in court, or hey a cop who says the subject was slamming Mary Jane probably does not deal with illicit substances, and btw a farm boy that bales hay while shirtless deserves the splinters he’ll probably get. But the goal there is not to feed my superiority complex. Rather, I want to help you find a workaround.

An example: a few contests ago a fellow Reider commented on my use of a 2 gauge, thinking I meant a 12 gauge. I meant the 2 gauge, in my mind I visualized that big ass punt gun in a boat with my characters. BUT the commenter’s point was appreciated because it let me know as a writer that I did not bring that Reider who clearly knew about firearms to the same place and if I had meant the 12 gauge, it would have offered me an easy fix :)

As for Op, why not mention your experience in a roundabout fashion? Like I have gathered numerous firsthand experiences from an officer with Xyears on the force.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Jennifer, I guess I am. I wish I could shed the hair that tickles my fiction fancy.

PAH said...

@ Inktruffle

Did you not read the whole post? The OP clearly states that her son is Autistic and not only has there been extensive research, but also first-hand experience dealing with it.

CED said...

I went to a Lee Child event a few years ago, and he told stories about people nitpicking details in his novels. He mentioned that one Army guy asked him if he'd been in the Army. Child was impressed that he'd somehow gotten these details right, and told the fan "No, but that's how you really do it in the Army?" The fan replied, "Oh, no, not my unit, but I assumed the other units did it that way..."

KariV said...

Or like when I watched an episode of a popular crime show last week - set in Central Florida. The opening shot showed wide open space (Central Florida is practically jungle!) and MOUNTAINS!!!! Drove me up a wall and I couldn't take anything else in the episode seriously. Those accuracy errors ruined any authenticity of the fictitious program

Lennon Faris said...

Or how about those fantasy stories where sometimes they have guns, but the main character still ends up fighting the nemesis with a sword?

Yes this kind of stuff makes me yell at my book. I will still finish the book, if it's interesting enough, but whenever I think about it ever after, I roll my eyes.

Inktruffle said...

Yes, PAH, I read the entire post. Perhaps I phrased this in an unclear way. First of all, non neurotypical is not a bandwagon. Living with an autistic person and researching autism isn't the best way to go about making a plot that's focused on a character who needs to be autistic for the plot to work. Because no further context is given, it's hard to tell what the plot actually is.

Living with someone autistic doesn't mean that you can correctly write a plot-pivotal autistic character. That doesn't mean this author can't do it! She doesn't go into precisely WHAT makes this autistic character well researched and genuine, or why it's pivotal. I'd be far more concerned about this than about any police plot points. Trust me- my neurotypical relatives would never be able to turn me into a fictional character, even if they lived with me, and have it be correct to the autistic experience. And right now is an extremely sensitive time to be querying books with a character that is a mom to an autistic son. My advice actually goes against most of the advice given. Right now, there are so many non-autistic people writing, acting, and engaging in media that has autistic characters, not created by autistic people. If her son had a big role in actively helping to create this character, and she's talked to other autistic writers, and had autistic sensitivity readers, I would ABSOLUTELY briefly mention this somewhere, even if it's only her author website. I'm not trying to be negative here, or a downer, but I'm being realistic. It may not matter to neurotypical readers, agents, and editors, but it matters to the autistic ones.

If autistic characters are something she cares about, and she's done the research, and believes she can convincingly and compassionately write an autistic character without turning them into a plot prop, yes, yes, yes, please briefly mention WHY you're qualified to do this. Your future autistic readers care, even if your neurotypical readers don't.

AJ Blythe said...

I worked in the outback for a number of years, so naturally I set a book there. A contest judged nailed me on setting (with a dismal score) telling me no way would the station house and cattle yards be positioned the way I had them and to do my my book I had described exactly how the station was set-up from my time there. So much for making sure I was on point!

Carolyn Haley said...

To AJ's comment (...A contest judged nailed me on setting...telling me no way would the station house and cattle yards be positioned the way I had them and to do my my book I had described exactly how the station was set-up from my time there...) -- This happens to me a lot, from both the writer ane editor sides. In one of my novels, which was about horse riding, I fictionalized real events that had happened to me personally, then had very experienced horse people review the story for accuracy. All of them vehemently insisted that NO WAY would the situation go down as described. NO WAY. NEVER. Well, surprise! Meanwhile, when I'm editing, I might flag something as hard to swallow but the author insists it's credible because of personal experience. What the problem usually ends up being is failure to present the scene well enough to create verisimilitude. (Yes, that word again. It's the bottom line, what makes a story -- technically accurate or not -- believable.)