I struggled with this problem a lot when working on my first manuscript. I was so worried about representing a culture not my own incorrectly that every little action I wrote about had to be backed up. It felt like I was writing an educational paper, not a story.
Did I need that education–about five formal years of education–to write that manuscript? You betcha, and I still could use more research. But your readers sometimes don’t need a full history lesson to understand what’s going on in the story. Yes, there are people who would be able to tell if you’ve done your research, and you should always be as factually accurate as possible, but the key part is the story.
Most readers will read the story, and it will be the story that will push them into educating themselves on whatever topic you wrote about. I knew a woman who essentially put a “works cited” page in the back of her novel because she wanted readers to have the opportunity to research more at their leisure.
It’s important that the information you put in your story is accurate, but you don’t need to write an entire educational book on the topic. I mean, unless you want to.
I’ve been reading a lot about gentrification in urban cities for my current novel, and it’s been really eye-opening, and it helps me as a writer, but I’m simply using it as a guide to make the experiences my characters are having to be shaped by legitimate issues people like them face every day.
At the end of the day, I probably have more pages of research for a book than I have pages in the manuscript.
Also, my teacher just released her latest book!!!!! Please check out Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, and her newest book Shadow Child. I already ordered mine!!! Click here to read a review of her book!!!