Friday, July 4, 2008

Just The Facts Ma'am

As a writer, I strive to portray my characters and their environment as accurately as possible. I research, I google, and when possible I visit the places I write about. Just by the nature of the works I write, a good deal of my action takes place at night. If I have Johnny running through the woods at night, he darned sure better have enough moonlight to see where he’s going. To that end, I use this handy little link: to help me set the scene properly. I’ve even been known to look up weather records for a given day to see if poor Johnny should be running across that field during a thunderstorm.

Sounds pretty organized, right? Guess what… I still make mistakes. It happens. Thankfully, a good editorial staff will save the day. Let’s face it, after a certain point, most writers become so close to our work, it becomes near impossible to see the errors in my own work. For instance, I’ve been informed by a couple of readers that there are a few typos in my book The Dance. Will I loose sleep over it? Nope. I just make note of where they are and pass the information along to my publisher.

Having said that, when I read a book with blatant errors, it rips me from the story with such force, I might as well be slapped in the face. More often than not, I can’t let the characters carry me away from that point forward, because I’m too busy looking for other inconsistencies. I’m not talking about swapping “no” for “know” or misused punctuation. I’m talking about putting a silencer on a revolver or slapping a clip into one for that matter. Something that you know is impossible. I will suspend belief for fantasy or even to a certain extent for mysteries or horror, but if a reference is made to something I know about and it is misused, it ruins it for me.

Yeah, it may take a bit longer to do the research, but the end result will be well worth the extra time invested. If not for the writer, then at least for the reader.


  1. Truly spoken. Wrong references make me pull my hair too!

    Typos are okay, Even WE as readers know that they are just typos.

    Happy 4th James!

  2. That reminds me.. I have to go Researching how my Mom & dad met...

    My mom is not telling me & there are a few people who just might be ready to talk...I guess I will go to my home town as soon as my Mom leaves for Canada....

  3. With things like revolvers and clips and silencers, I think people don't even realize there's something to look up. They think that "revolver" is just another term for "pistol" or "handgun." They're picturing what they see on TV and in movies--not a real revolver at all.

    If you don't know that you don't know something, you're not likely to look it up. This is where beta readers, editors, and copy editors should step in.

  4. I once judged a contest entry where a woman was in Israel and she kept talking about the rainforest, mosquitoes, and swamp lands the heroine had to march through. Um folks. That part of the world is pretty dry. While I never lived in Israel, I'm pretty sure it's arid and I KNOW that in Jerusalem the greenery is closely tended to make it so. That's not a natural state.

  5. Climate, geography, weaponry, weather... those are issues that CAN be researched. For one book I researched types of edible fruits and how they are actually eaten. Do you peel it? Slice it? If you're going to use it, know how it works.

  6. Well put James. We DO all make mistakes. That's why we have editors!

  7. Ah, and our lovely Mona should be one of my beta readers. She was one who caught two typos in a book that was already released. :D

    That sounds like some exciting research to undertake, Mona.

    Very good point, Ellisa.

    That should've been caught on many levels, Kelly.

    Exactly, Anny.

    Oh yeah, Cindy. I'd look like a fool many times over without my editors. :D

  8. Birthday and ages and such bug me to death in books where the author really blows it. For example: Mother is a certain stated age and her children are specified ages so she was what? TEN when she gave birth. I usually put the book down after that but I see it a lot. Bugs, bugs, bugs me.

    Things like...okay, would the moon be full on this particular night? I think readers will overlook a lot but these details should be checked.

    Great post, as always, James!
    Have a FUN holiday!

  9. That's what has my eyes rolling at soap operas. The kids age ten or so years, but the parents don't seem to age! With a few exceptions, though.


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