Monday, November 24, 2008


My writer friend Mark! and I have been discussing - here and in other places - the obligation writers have to get the details right. If you're writing about Boston, and you've never been there, get somebody from Boston to read your work. Otherwise, you might not know that at five o'clock on a winter afternoon it's already dark.

Yes, that happened to me. I have lived in Florida since I was four. I knew it got colder up there. I didn't know it got dark earlier. Good thing I had a Boston native read it for me before it became a permanent mistake.

As promised, here are some of my favorite mistakes (other than the Sheryl Crow song):

This was a category romance in the late 80s. The hero took the heroine to Disney World in Florida. They rode Space Mountain. They sat side by side. Observe Exhibit A:

Side by side? No can do.

Granted, there was no Google in the 80s. It wasn't nearly as easy to find that kind of picture then as it is now, but hard would it have been to find somebody who'd been to WDW and ASK them? Not very.

Same book, same author: They're in a hotel on Miami Beach. They look out the window. The hero says (and I'm not quoting exactly) "Oh, look! A hurricane's coming!"

Boys and girls, believe me when I tell you, you don't look out the window and see it coming. It doesn't provide a whirling vortex of flotsam and jetsam like the Tasmanian Devil skipping across the surface of the ocean. Very sophisticated meteorological instruments detect the presence of a hurricane long before you can "see" anything. And what you see, really, is a lot of rain and bending palm trees.

Here's another one. Florida author. Should have known better. Hero lives in a secluded cabin in the Everglades (I forget why). Heroine goes there for some reason. They watch a movie on cable.

Now I've never worked for Time Warner or Bright House or any of those cable providing conglomerates. But I will bet you my last dollar that none of them have to date laid cable down Alligator Alley and into the swamp. At least not yet.

They could have watched a movie on DVD. They could have watched a movie on Satellite. On cable? I don't think so.

This one is my personal favorite:
The book is by a well known author and comes from a Big New York publishing house. There are characters in the book from New Orleans. Someone asks the woman how she survived Katrina. (Boy, those hurricanes!) She says, "No problem. We rode it out in the bayou in the basement of a church."

I'll leave you to ponder why that is so wrong. If you can't get it, I'll fill you in tomorrow.

Now I'm off to work on the book that I'm setting in the small town in Georgia where I was born. THAT one, I know.


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