|By krawky389 @ Deviantart|
As writers we know (or, uh, should know) that research is important to our writing. Without research, we can look pretty stupid. Or, even worse, (yes, worse), we may come off as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and a plethora of other -ists that no, you really don't want to come off that way. Seriously.
Sometimes our research is based off our personal experiences. Sometimes it's a mixture of personal experiences and actual academic and practical research. In my case, a series of novellas I've been working on these past two months are about a pair of Japanese lesbians attempting to keep their shit together in modern-day Japan. (Actually, one is in early 90s Japan. So. Much. Crappy. Research. Materials.) Now, I've lived in Japan. Even familiar with the areas they live in/frequent. I've studied Japanese language and culture half my life. I know first hand what it's like being a lesbian in Japan. I also know what it's like being a lesbian in a generally homophobic and extremely sexist society. What I don't know, however, and will never know, is what it's like to actually BE Japanese. The only thing to do about that is talk to as many Japanese people in these situations as I can, and research as much as I can. Much of my academic research in university, re: my major was actually studying and writing papers about LGBT life in Japan. Academically, and from my own experiences, I feel pretty confident I know what I'm talking about. But I will never know first-hand what it's like to be an actual Japanese lesbian dealing with the bullshit unique to being a Japanese lesbian in Japan. See where I'm going with this?
I'm hyper aware of my privilege when I approach this writing and strive to do my best to not look like a total ass.
I am lucky to know all the wonderful queer Japanese people, men and women and neither, that I do. I am lucky to have lived in various places around Japan, from the queer wastelands to the queer capitals. I've heard stories. I've sympathized with universal human emotions and wants and needs. But I'll never KNOW. All I can do is research the hell out of what I'm writing, from factoids/studies, to personal experiences posted on the internet, to personal experiences I hear from my friends and acquaintances.
Part of my research recently was two-fold when it mixed in with my need to watch some "new" (as in, new to me) cinema from Japan. I guess you could say I miss being bombarded by it on TV every day for a full week every month. A friend recommended to me on a forum thread specializing in LGBT Japanese films that I check out a few. I'm about three in (one is a repeat that I saw before in Japan, but this time I had subtitles, ha!) and I've found a movie that I'm absolutely in love with. So many good feelings, great acting, great story (the premise is a lesbian finding out that both her parents are/were ((mom's dead)) gay and got married just to have a baby while continuing their same-sex relations. "We were mother and father, but not wife and husband", is how it's explained to her.)
Anything you've had to make sure you researched correctly? Has your research lead you to any great but maybe unrelated discoveries?