As a writer, I need a lot of help. Not just psychological and financial (oh the effortposts I could write) but just getting facts right in your fiction is an enormous job.
I’ve written about the Illinois Indians, the American military, the city of Brussels, the 15th century Ottoman Empire and traditional Bulgarian woodcarving, the New Guinea highlands and the Indonesian military, life in Lima and Mumbai, and most recently turn-of-the-century Chicago and American black history, and the design and use of gliders and Moroccan society and culture.
I didn’t know about ANY of that stuff before I started writing. And of course I needed to find out. Even finding books was hard, because which books? I needed to find people to help me, but people are hard to talk to, especially since some of these issues are sensitive, and I don’t want to insult anyone with my mistakes. I don’t want to just dump my error-ridden manuscript on some stranger’s lap and demand they fix it. But I also can’t just demand that someone tell me everything they know about a given subject.
I think the answer is to give experts specific questions, so they have something to react to, and then we can dig deeper if we need to. Questions something like:
1) What are some idioms or aphorisms from this place/time/culture?
2) What is/was the food like?
3) How do/did rich people live? Poor people?
4) What entertainments were popular? What do/did people quote?
5) What are/were the major cultural divisions? What did/do people disagree about? What were/are people really angry about? Grateful for?
6) Who makes/made the important decisions? How?
7) What did/do people think is/was heroic and honorable? What did/do they think is/was evil and disgusting?
8) What’s something very common everybody did/does that most Americans don’t do?
9) What surprised you about going there/doing this? Or, when you left there/stopped doing this, what surprised you?
Those are all the questions I can think of right now, but maybe you have more? Are there any I’ve missed? Tell me in the comments