Jul 14, 2015

Research Power

by Terri Wagner

I was asked to help edit a book in a genre I am very unfamiliar with....horror. Thank goodness it is not paranormal, I scare myself with stories about ghosts. This is a twisted horror story that has the best and worst of mankind pitted against each other. And unlike fantasy, which is my personal preference, it ends more real than it begins if that makes sense. This is not your typical Stephen King novel, more like Criminal Minds. I make it a habit of not watching any show that's too real. The tragedy of true life is more than I can handle, I don't want to read about it. But I was asked to edit, and so I am doing it.

The first chapter focuses on what becomes the bad guy. Getting into the head of a psycho killer is not something I would take lightly. I am actually struggling with the fact that first chapter isn't scary enough. The third chapter he morphs into a truly horrifying enigma. So I am trying to steer the author into a direction where either chapter 2 becomes 1 or the killer's sickness is unveiled earlier.

However, the author doesn't quite trust me (imagine that?) and asked for a beta reader. Recently, the author asked me to check over the beta reader's comments. The first one off the bat made me laugh and blush a bit because I did not catch it. But then why would I? I know nothing about drugs.

The beta reader noted that if a person's teeth were that damaged by meth use, they would not be thinking that clearly. They would be more like an animal. The reasoning power of the person would be gone. Only the basic survival instinct to live and get more of the drug would be left. I don't know if that's true, but I do know this first chapter needs to place the killer firmly in the mind of the reader. So how do you research all that?

I watched about a month of the show Intervention only to conclude the intervention is for the family to basically draw a line in the sand. Rarely does the drug rehab "cure" the abuser, but it does give the family that one last chance to save their loved one, and then get back to some semblance of normalcy. It's a hard hard road for everyone involved.

Bottom line: both the author and editor (me) should have caught that. I should have researched the details. You really do live and die by the details. Never underestimate the power of research...or the need for it.


  1. Very sage advice, Terri. Great post! Hats off to you for agreeing to help your friend. I don't know if I could have done it. Just how do you research stuff like that without it getting to you? I really appreciate your comment about the family drawing a line in the sand, etc. We experienced something like that these past few months. I am looking forward to some normalcy. hugs~

    1. Thank you. I'm sorry about your family situation. Got prayers out to you.

    2. Thank you for those prayers!


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