Monday, March 6, 2017

Details, Details

I took some time off from my "real job" and used it to work on my "dream job" and to goof off and catch up on some reading.

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes and also one of my most distressing. Maybe it's because I'm a writer and I have a tendency to obsess over the possibility of making mistakes but reading a book that is in published form and, therefore, "set in stone" and finding mistakes gives me a low grade headache and mild nausea. Maybe it's empathy, you know, I understand how the author is probably dying of mortification somewhere in the Bahamas and all the royalties in the world can't make up for the fact that such a blatant mistake is obviously not keeping their book from selling like hotcakes and racking up rave reviews on amazon, and....

Wait, back up, I took the wrong exit somewhere back there....

Anyway, what happened was that I was in the middle of a good book, the first in a series that featured a couple of my favorite themes--primarily, a New Mexico setting--when the misspelling of the second-largest city in the state of New Mexico jumped out at me. This, from an author whose bio stated that New Mexico was her second home. It's not the first time I've noticed something like that. Another book I read--written by a person who had a Ph.D.--misspelled Otero County THREE times. In one paragraph.

There is a lot to be said for double checking facts. I understand and know that typos happen and everyone's best proofreading occurs after the book is in print. But then there are mistakes that are simply a matter of failing to check facts. I've learned this from reading factual details in several books that were plain wrong. Area 51 isn't in New Mexico. That's a big one many people might catch. But what if you're talking about a lesser known landmark or location, say, the Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque? If your character is in the Plaza in Old Town Albuquerque, how long will it take him to get to the museum? If you've done your research, maybe five minutes... even if he's walking. Same thing if you set your character in New York, Paris, San Francisco, London, etc. If you're going to have your character move and live in a real, as opposed to a fictional, location, you'd better know the details of certain popular and well-known landmarks as well as which streets run where.

Even if you're using a fictional setting, such as Bonney County, you need to keep track of details, especially if you're writing a series. If, in Book One, you mention a certain business is owned by a certain person or is in a certain location, it better still be there owned by that person and in that same location in Book Five unless you've explained why circumstances have changed in the preceding books.

Details bring a story to life, so it's important to make sure that those details are correct. Writers owe it to their readers to do their best to do that.

New Mexico is better known than you might think! Double check those details!

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