Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Careful...Careful

I think by now we all know that research is critical when presenting work to the public. They'll put a book down in a flash if inaccuracies get in the way. It happens in movies too and yesterday, we had lots of comment about that. Thing is, it's relatively easy these days to check your facts. Read a blog a few days ago about keeping a "bible". That's a very good idea and one I'd not heard of before. It would help not only the writer, but the editor, and yes, if you're writing a series it becomes even more important.

Yesterday, I was doing some research about bloopers in books and movies and found out something interesting. Making these kinds of mistakes in literature isn't just for newbies. The biggies screw up, too. One site pointed out that in the first Bridget Jones Diary, several children and their ages were mentioned but then, in the following story Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the children had completely different ages that didn't jive with the first book. That's a bad mistake. Did the author just forget or believe, in the end, it wasn't important?

The list of acclaimed authors was huge and included J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and others. Here are a few examples:

The Lost World –Michael Crichton

Ian Malcolm dies in Jurassic Park. In the epilogue it says that the Costa Rican Government would not "permit the burial of John Hammond or Ian Malcolm", yet he's somehow back to life for this book, presumably because the character in the movie was popular.

Angels and Demons- Dan Brown


When Vittoria shows Kohler and Langdon the underground lab, she searches for the dial tone on her cellphone (and fails as they are underground), thrice. Cellphones don't have dial tones.

The book erroneously claims that St. Peter's Square is not located in Vatican City, but in Rome proper. Although located outside the perimeter wall of the original Vatican complex, it does lie within the boundaries of present-day Vatican City, established in 1929.

In one of his lectures Robert Langdon tells his students that the Christians got their tradition of communion, eating their god, from the Aztecs. The Aztec civilization dates to the 13th century while the tradition of communion is as old as Christianity itself. And even disregarding when the Aztecs lived, the Europeans had no contact with America until the late 15th century and could thus not have gotten any traditions that way.

At the end of the book the cardinal, Mortati, states that the pope did not sin when he had a child with Maria via artificial insemination. For the Catholic church, this is false. The church condemns unnatural sexual acts between two persons, one of the most unnatural being artificial insemination. The idea that the pope's "devil's advocate" would allow this behavior is absurd.

The book claims that St. Peter's is adorned by 140 statues. St. Peter's has only 13 statues - Christ and his apostles.

So, I guess, the point I'm making is that ALL of us need what be more careful when researching. If you make a mistake, take heart, even the most acclaimed authors make them. None of us are perfect and lack of careful research isn't just a newbie mistake. A bible (or list) of factual details in our stories could help avoid these problems. The fact that I so easily found these examples is proof that yes, people notice.

11 comments:

  1. My favorite Jurassic Park boo-boo? claws don't conduct electricity. Anyone who wants to hear my story about how the San Diego Zoo found this out during my internship there, has to buy me a drink at a conference sometime. But it kind of negates the whole story of Jurassic Park--an electric fence would have NEVER kept the raptors inside, so the power going out wouldn't have changed anything.

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  2. Heh. I found that movie scary enough without knowing that!

    That bible idea, BTW, is an absolute necessity if you write a series.

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  3. That's interesting about the raptors in Jurassic Park. Wonder why they didn't figure this out??? That's just kind of sloppy.

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  4. You know, Anny, I'd never heard of a "bible" until I read that blog the other day. I'm getting ready to start a paranormal series and I think it's going to be a MUST. I'm already a newbie at this worldbuilding stuff so it gets really confusing.

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  5. I didn't know that about Jurassic Park! I'll have to go back and reread The Lost World.

    The one I caught was WEB Griffen's The Men in Blue series. There's an officer named David Pechak. In book #2, his name was spelled Petak all the way through, but in book #3-7, it went back to Pechak.

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  6. Isn't it weird to find very famous authors making these kinds of mistakes. By far, out of all the mistakes I saw, J.K. Rowling had the most. Think Stephen King ran second.

    In one of the Harry Potter books everyone is in a circular room but then she has certain characters standing together in a corner.

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  7. Great post, Regina. You know the mention of Dan Brown is funny. As weith three of his "acclaimed" books, I found tons of blatant errors. It was almost enough to quit reading them altogether...

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  8. There were a ton of big errors in Angels and Demons..24, I think. SOmewhere around there. The DaVinci Code,too, but not quite as many. It's really a ridiculous number for a best selling author. And what was his editor thinking????

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  9. I had little respect for Dan Brown to begin with, but seeing all those errors that simple fact checking should have caught, I have even less. Point these out to all those people who take "The DaVinci Code" as gospel truth (pun intended) about Jesus. If he can't get this stuff right, how the heck is he going to get all that "happened 2000 years ago stuff" right?

    Anyway--this is why I write fantasy. I can make up my own facts as I please, as long as they're consistent.

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  10. Oops--my brain isn't working tonight. That Anonymous at 9:13 PM is me.

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  11. Indeed research is very important, Mistakes like that make one tear one's hair!

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