N is for Neurosis and Noonan’s Syndrome

A creative writing teacher once told me to be careful about diagnosing my characters. Be sure, she said, that you know exactly what you’re talking about before you do. In that particular case I was writing about a woman with OCD – something I strongly suspect my son to be afflicted with, though he has never been diagnosed.

I can say with every bit of authority that my professor’s advice is valid, having seen an episode of Law and Order: SVU entitled Bullseye, in which they included a character who had “Noonan’s Syndrome.”  I was enraged. The show went about explaining the character’s mental retardation by passing it off with a diagnosis the writers quite obviously didn’t research. Yes, some of the people with Noonan’s Syndrome are mentally delayed. My youngest son is one of them. But through the extensive research I did when my son was a baby, in order to find out what his life might be like, I met some fantastic people with university degrees who were inflicted with the same genetic disease, which is most often characterized by its physical symptoms. Not its mental ones.

There are many ways to piss off a reader by not thoroughly researching an element in a work of fiction. The more emotionally driven the subject, the more it will affect the audience.

Have you ever been enraged over an author’s lack of research? I doubt there are many of us who haven’t, at some point or another.



5 thoughts on “N is for Neurosis and Noonan’s Syndrome

  1. Yes, it bothers me when I know what I’m reading, or watching on tv goes on about something, and I know it’s wrong. I try to look up as much as I can about whatever it is I’m writing about, first. My husband gets irate when he’s watching anything to do with the military, that is wrong, as he was in the Army for over 21 years, and knows a thing or two about it. It tends to take you right out of the story.


  2. Misinformation is not good. It depends on what it is about as to how bad it irks me.
    In teaching schools, I would uncover information that I was wrong about on occasion. I always felt bad, but it happens. This is why it doesn’t always make me mad. Of course, if they hit too close to home, I am steamed.

    I’m visiting from A to Z.


  3. Good point, Isabella. Mental health is, as you say, very complex. My late sister was mentally handicapped. Born in 1950, her impairment was only mental, not physical, and only apparent after completing several grades in elementary school. She had had seizures as an infant and doctors at the university medical center failed to diagnose her. I discovered the diagnosis myself, online, a few years ago. (How about that?) Her symptoms and pathology exactly fit those of “West Syndrome”, a form of childhood epilepsy that results in developmental problems. Part of Susan’s mind was unaffected and part wasn’t. She had a speech impediment that worsened with age. She loved to read about celebrities and had a marvelous memory for details, dates and names. On the other hand, she could never do arithmetic nor remember her own address or phone number. Complex.


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