Character Research: The Epileptic and the Musician

In the past couple of weeks, I have editorialized on creating a diverse cast of characters for science fiction and urban fantasy that transcends bias based on race and/or gender. Part of that diversity also means creating characters that have world-experience that goes beyond the limits of my own resume and relationship history. But, to do this requires: curiosity and research.

I can imagine what a certain situation or job would be like, but that doesn’t mean I’m correct. I like to run micro-scenes by people that have a better know-how into a scenario. My partner’s brother was a military lifer, he is my go-to for questions of rank and organization as my series delves more deeply into a dystopian US under martial law.

Jared, the primary narrator of the first book talked about here, here, and here, has a seizure [Oh, spoiler alert. <–back there. Skip that part.] Having not experienced a seizure first hand, I've given the appropriate scenes to an epileptic and the mother of an epileptic for critique from those who've intimately experienced it.

Kate, looking the sickly yellowish-green of bad limes, wipes my forehead with a cool cloth. “Bryson!” she yells, “He’s stopped seizing. He’s back with us, I think.” I feel very achy, but the headache and buzzing noises are gone. Kate’s look softens, “Jared? Are you okay, Jared? You’ve had a seizure. But you’re going to be alright.”

I’ve pissed on myself. The warm wetness has soaked through the chair. I’ve never felt shame and embarrassment this thoroughly. I wish they had not found me like this. “Thank God, you’re okay,” Kate adds while brushing my hair from my forehead. Bryson is in the doorway behind Kate. He listens to his phone but watches me intently.

“How are you feeling, Jare?” Bry asks with louder than normal volume. How am I feeling? Wet, embarrassed, achy, ashamed, thirsty. Thirsty? Yes, just a little bit. “I don’t know,” he snaps at the phone, “He hasn’t answered me yet.” Kate looks up at Bry, her eyes begging him to not get snippy on the phone. “The ambulance is on its way,” he assures her. She accepts this answer and turns back to me.

Another character, Walsh, teaches piano and voice at a local university. While I am a singer involved in multiple choirs, I still went to a profession singer-pianist to scan his scenes for accuracy.

. . . we’ve settled on the emotive “Danny Boy.” That is what we are running currently. My fingers lilt into the old Irish tune by memory, finding jazz hidden between the lines and notes on the page. My mind, though, drifts over to the window and out into the garden. Eric’s voice and pitch waft gently away from the key my piano playing offers.

I stop playing mid-phrase, letting my final chord ring. Eric winces and corrects his note. “Shit,” he concedes allowing his stance to slump. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. And, I was really into it that time.” I move to advise, but he beats me to the lesson. “I know,” Eric whines, “I stopped listening. It’s just that same phrase where the piano part doesn’t have my note—“


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