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Thread: Contemporary Romance Q - do the details have to be real?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    Contemporary Romance Q - do the details have to be real?

    My h is backpacking across Europe, working as a bartender when & where she can to augment her savings. This is important to the story for a number of reasons. She is American, which is also important to the story.

    Here's the thing - it turns out that Americans aren't eligible for working holiday visas in England. I probably should have researched that before I completely outlined and got 18,000 words into the story. Oops.

    Can I ignore that problem and deal with it later, if it comes up with an agent or editor, if I'm so lucky to get that far?

    Or should I change something to explain it away - I thought about making her a dual citizen, for example ... it's just not really a part of who she is, if that makes sense.
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  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW JanDarby's Avatar
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    Some readers will care, some won't. But if you know it's an issue, why risk alienating ANY potential readers? They're hard enough to come by, in the best of circumstances. Why make it harder?

    Fix it now, while you can.

  3. #3
    I was only joking! Honest! mirandashell's Avatar
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    Yeah, that could be a major stumbling block so fix it now. Do you really want to write 50k and then try and unravel it?
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    I know that's the right answer, it's just not the answer I want. Off to fix it!
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    ageing savage dolores haze's Avatar
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    While on my travels I encountered young people of many different nationalities working in bars, restaurants, youth hostels, etc, without having official work papers. It's not exactly legal, but it's common.

  6. #6
    I was only joking! Honest! mirandashell's Avatar
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    That's true. But I think that would need to feed into the plot. Or at least be mentioned. It would also effect where the character could work
    I wish I was a glow worm. A glow worm's never glum. Cos how you can be grumpy when the sun shines out your bum?

  7. #7
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I am sure there is a way to make it work. Like just have her work under the table (it's pretty common), or in France and Germany give her a Canadian citizenship/parent which would allow her to be under the youth exchange project.

    For me an author presenting Europe as a harmonized Union with no bureaucracy issues would be distracting and a bit annoying (having had to grapple with those rules myself).

  8. #8
    not to be taken seriously LAgrunion's Avatar
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    Speaking for myself, I don't think it'd bother me. If your story is good, then I'll go along with factual inaccuracies. I reckon most people won't even pick up on it, especially if the legality of her working is not an important plot point.

    That said, if it's easy to fix, then just do it so you don't have to stress over it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by veinglory View Post
    For me an author presenting Europe as a harmonized Union with no bureaucracy issues would be distracting and a bit annoying (having had to grapple with those rules myself).
    I agree - not being able to work in every region, needing to choose her travel plans accordingly and stretch her savings between jobs is a recurring theme. I don't want it to be easy for her. I just assumed that England would be easy.
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  10. #10
    The Surreal Thing AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Our daughter had a relationship with Jonathan, who left the US and apparently sneaked into Finland without a passport (which he didn't have). Jonathan worked at various bars and clubs, being paid under the table in cash, sometimes getting a room in lieu of part of his pay.

    No, he did not speak the language, nor was he especially handsome. He was, however, enthusiastically part of a certain 'underground' community, taken in as one of their own. In full punk regalia, he most certainly seemed like One Of Us, yet in street clothes with recently washed hair, he was just some American, able to rent a room or buy a meal, no problem.

    Maybe your heroine could do something similar, where she's recognized as a member of a subculture, accurately or not, and works entirely off the books. It's pretty common.

    Maryn, wondering if Jonathan is still there
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW KVL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZoeYork View Post

    Here's the thing - it turns out that Americans aren't eligible for working holiday visas in England. I probably should have researched that before I completely outlined and got 18,000 words into the story. Oops.
    I came over to the UK on a BUNAC visa which I was able to get because I was a recent college graduate (within 6 months). The rules may have changed (this was nearly seven years ago now and I swapped to a marriage visa) but it might be worth looking into if your heroine is a recent grad.
    Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Make your heroine Canadian or Australian? Youth Mobility Scheme



    Easier to deal with it now than later.
    Last edited by LJD; 11-14-2012 at 03:53 AM.

  13. #13
    Sword-wielding cyborg elindsen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JanDarby View Post
    Some readers will care, some won't. But if you know it's an issue, why risk alienating ANY potential readers? They're hard enough to come by, in the best of circumstances. Why make it harder?

    Fix it now, while you can.
    Very well said
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    Playing the waiting game MsLaylaCakes's Avatar
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    I would think that a sentence saying "she gets paid in cash" or only works for tips would explain it...not 100%legal, but pretty common. She can be there as a tourist and just trying to earn pocket money off the books
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  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW Lil's Avatar
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    Give her an Irish-born grandmother. She can get an Irish passport and work anywhere in Europe. At least she could when my daughter did this.
    She can also work off the books, as many people have suggested. That's what her friend did.

  16. #16
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I think the grandparent route was cut off when the EU formed.

  17. #17
    Girl Detective AW Moderator Stacia Kane's Avatar
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    Yeah, as an American who is a legal permanent UK resident, this would drive me BONKERS. Like, book-throwing bonkers. I mean absolutely no offense to you at all, I really don't, but as a generalization I absolutely loathe the idea that it's Just That Easy to go live and work in another country. It drives me crazy. We paid the UK government an obscene amount of money for our residency visas, and we were only able to get them because my husband is a dual US/UK citizen.*

    When we first moved here I met another American, living and working, here with her fiance. She assured me breezily that what she was doing was perfectly acceptable, because Americans can stay in the UK up to six months as visitors (that is correct; it is the Visa Waver Programme, but Americans are NOT permitted to work in the UK on the Visa Waiver). I told her that she needed a fiance visa, which does not permit the holder to work, but she and her fiancee said no no, I was wrong and what she was doing was perfectly legal and I was just being silly.

    She found out who was wrong when she went back to the US for Christmas, and on her return was stopped at British immigration, sent immediately back to America, and forced to not only wait and apply for the proper visa, but pay fines on top of it.

    Now, if your heroine is a dual citizen, that would work just fine, but be aware that the UK does not automatically confer citizenship based on birth the way the US does. In other words, a baby born to American parents in the UK is NOT automatically a UK citizen. But it wouldn't be hard to find a scenario by which she could have UK citizenship or citizenship in an EU country which may allow her to work. Or, yes, she could work under the table, as long as it's acknowledged somewhere that such work is against the law; she'd need to be careful.


    *Dual citizenship is not recognized by the US government. According to them my husband is a US citizen, period. But the UK does recognize it.

    It's been a few years since I've dealt with immigration, but I am happy to answer questions if you have any.
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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW girlyswot's Avatar
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    The regulations change ALL THE TIME. I'd ask questions at UK-Yankee if you want more up to date details.

  19. #19
    Toughen up. gothicangel's Avatar
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    I don't know if you realize, but around 2007 the rules changed. When you start a job before you can even start working, you have to prove that you have a legal right to work in the UK. If you are going to have the work illegal, then pubs are going to be a tough one, as the police come around regularly and do check domicile status. I would rather opt for your MC to be a fruit picker, working in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant or as a nanny to an MP . . .
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  20. #20
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    Thanks all! I've made her a dual citizen - her parents are now both British, they moved to the States shortly after getting married. It meant that I needed to cut a bit about cultural differences, but it didn't really help the story - my oversight actually helped with a bit of editing in the end!

    As an aside, I didn't realize how lucky we are in the Commonwealth to be able to get working holiday visas so easily. [And I tried making her Canadian instead of British, but it required more back story; that her parents were British is explained in one line about why she chose to start her adventure there]
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  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW L.Jones's Avatar
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    Details - Nora Roberts once famously said that you don't need to give anything more detailed than whatever the average person has learned from TV (paraphrased).

    My experience is that if you do get the details right - someone will argue with you, no matter how much research or personal exp you have to back it up.

    If you don't get the details right - see above.

    Mostly it comes down to whether or not you make people believe. A story is about the exception to the norm, that's what makes it interesting. So be creative, if it's in some way possible, use that angle and let it go.

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  22. #22
    Wicked Safari release date March 17 gingerwoman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dolores haze View Post
    While on my travels I encountered young people of many different nationalities working in bars, restaurants, youth hostels, etc, without having official work papers. It's not exactly legal, but it's common.
    I was going to say if it's not legal than that adds conflict which you always want.
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  23. #23
    υπείκωphobe Wilde_at_heart's Avatar
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    I met a bartender in Florida not that long ago who worked under the table for a bit in the UK. The owners of a pub there had met her while they were vacationing in the US, loved her, and invited her to work at their own pub for a bit if she ever wanted to travel around there.

    It's not something I'd ever consider a plot hole at any rate.

    If I were you, I would, as you said, " ignore that problem and deal with it later."
    Last edited by Wilde_at_heart; 03-11-2013 at 11:51 PM.

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