• T. A. Hernandez

Interesting Things I Learned While Writing Secrets of PEACE

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

Ah, research. Some writers love it. Some hate it. I lean more towards the "hate" end of the spectrum, but once in a while, I stumble across some really cool stuff that makes it all worthwhile, even if I don't end up using it in the story. Today I wanted to talk about a few of the most interesting things I learned while doing research for the Secrets of PEACE series.

1. Prosthetic limbs

Minor spoiler alert: There is a character in Secrets of PEACE who loses one of their legs and ends up with a prosthesis. This ended up being a much bigger plot point than I had originally planned, so there came a point about three drafts in where I realized I needed to do a lot more research to really understand what I was writing about and make it plausible. I eventually found my way to something called osseointegrated prosthetic attachment, which is basically just a fancy way of saying there's an implant that extends out from the bone of the residual limb so a prosthetic device can be attached. Cool right? There are some risks involved and it isn't that common now, but I figured that 100+ years in the future when the story takes place, it would be reasonable to assume this could be a viable option for people.

Several months ago, I was watching this veterinarian show on Netflix and in the first episode, there was a cat named Oscar who actually had a similar procedure done. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself for already knowing exactly what they were talking about and how it worked before the vet even explained it all.

2. Substance abuse symptoms and withdrawal

Here's another minor spoiler alert: there's another character in the series who has a history of substance abuse, and this becomes a pretty key part of the story in Survivors of PEACE. I was able to take a class on substance abuse as part of my undergrad in social work, so I learned a lot through that, especially in regards to how different drugs affect the brain and body. One of the more interesting things I learned in that class was that the symptoms of withdrawal for a person trying to quit the drug are going to be the opposite of the symptoms of using the drug. For example, heroin use causes a person to have constricted pupils, and once they stop using the drug, they're going to have dilated pupils for a while instead. It seems like such an obvious thing, because of course once you remove the drug that's causing all these symptoms, you're going to be seeing the opposite effects. But it wasn't something I had thought of before, and I thought it was interesting how the human body reacts to the removal of a drug it has come to depend on. And just as a little side note, if anyone is writing about substance abuse or is interested in learning more about addiction, I would highly recommend this book. It's a great resource that breaks down specific drugs and tells you what they do to the mind and body, how they interact with other substances, what treatment and withdrawal looks like, etc.

3. Substance abuse treatment

I also ended up consulting with a few people who work in the substance abuse field and have some real-world experience helping people with addiction recovery. I was trying to find resources, coping strategies, and other avenues of recovery for a person living in a world where there aren't really any social services and addiction has been treated as a purely criminal act rather than a disease or problem the person needs help with. One of the people I consulted with pointed out that even if there weren't any formal supports such as rehabilitation programs or clinics, there would likely still be informal supports organized by people in individual communities, such as addiction recovery support groups. Again, this was something I just hadn't thought of even though it made a lot of sense, and it really helped me figure out how to handle my character's addiction in Survivors of PEACE.

4. Further vs Farther

This one is more of an editing thing I learned while revising and not something I spent a ton of time researching, but it is a nifty little trick to remember when you're trying to decide whether to use further or farther. If you're talking about physical distance, you use farther (i.e. Argentina is farther than Mexico). If you're talking about something metaphorically, you use further (i.e. She didn't want to discuss the matter any further). It's easy to remember because farther has the word far in it, which refers to physical distance. Pretty cool, huh? Well, maybe not to most people, but we writers are word nerds like that.
Did you find any of these things interesting? If you're a writer, what's something interesting you've learned while doing research for a story? Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know!