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dianeP
08-17-2008, 07:28 PM
In an episode of Sex and the City, Carrie reads her boyfriend's book, loves it, but points out a flaw; a woman in New York would not go out in public wearing a scrunchy.

This may not be a concrete mistake, maybe just a matter of opinion, but,

As a reader, would this sort of thing bother you?

As a writer, how deep will you go into research to avoid this type of mistake?

dfallon23
08-17-2008, 07:36 PM
I hate to say it depends but, well... it depends...

I believe there are certain circumstances that deserve a lot of description in writing. And as a reader, I think I'm naturally tolerant to some over description.

On the other hand, I think as a writer you have to expect that there will be some people out there that read your work and point out a flaw. The trick, it seems, is to minimize that as much as possible.

This is a good topic. I wonder what other people will have to say...

Dave

Tachyon
08-17-2008, 07:39 PM
It depends on the significance of the error, what stage of writing I'm at, and how much tea I've had so far that day. :D

First draft, I only really worry about details that are crucial to the plot. While I try to get everything else right, something like a hair scrunchy probably wouldn't bother me unless it was a plot element. In that case, I want to get the details correct so I don't screw up continuity or ruin suspension of disbelief. One thing I'm really bad with in this respect is travel time.

When revising, I pay attention to see if there are any details that jump out as inconsistent. This is where I rely on other people to read it too. They have their areas of expertise (I'm sure Carrie is very familiar with scrunchy style) and can point out any flaws.

tehuti88
08-17-2008, 07:44 PM
I try to get right the things that I can, but I know there are all sorts of details I could never hope to get right, because my resources are limited and some things one just can't know for sure (especially when writing about different time periods and such).

For that reason I stick to fantasy and even with that I include a disclaimer. I know I'll get things wrong, and if I can fix them I will, but sometimes I also take artistic license. I'd just hate if somebody saw one of my liberties and thought that it was a mistake committed out of ignorance or shoddy research! But sometimes it just can't be helped.

That being said, if I see something "wrong" in someone else's writing, it might bother me, if I feel it was done out of ignorance or laziness in "research" (for this reason movies like "The Scorpion King" just bug the snot out of me--there is just about NOTHING historically accurate in that thing, so why did they bother "basing" it on history?), but if I feel it's just a liberty taken by the writer I'll probably be more accepting. (Granted, such liberties are more acceptable in a genre like fantasy as opposed to historical fiction.) The catch is, most writers don't include disclaimers and one really can't tell if an incorrect detail is truly incorrect or just created that way by the writer.

I guess the short answer to both questions is, these things tend to niggle at me, but it varies depending on the situation, the genre, and the size of the "errors" committed.

priceless1
08-17-2008, 07:58 PM
My feeling is that if we're being asked to suspend our disbelief over the lifetime of the story, then the story has to be logical, right down to what the characters would logically do, say, and wear.

Deccydiva
08-17-2008, 08:25 PM
I'm fussy about things that could easily be checked. I was irritated once by a novel set in Britain but by an author from "somewhere else" who made reference to the speed of a car being in Kilometres per hour (still not the case!) and the MCs were sitting in a London pub where a waitress brought the drinks to their table and later on they had cornish pasty, the "local delicacy", to eat. It took my mind completely off the story!!:e2thud:

citymouse
08-17-2008, 08:26 PM
Odd things jump out at me. I read a novel about an early 11th cent pope. The author had the congregation entering in the Vatican (read St. Peter's Basilica) and moving into pews before the bronze baldacchino.

BuZZZ. No pews in 11th century cathedrals, no Vatican as we understand it today and the Baldicchino described was cast six hundred years later!
Appalling really when this kind of error is so easily spotted and avoided.

In a popular espionage story the reader is treated to a real shoot out between the hero and a gang of armed thugs. Great! But the editor uses the word mélange where mêlée would be the preferred word.

These are the kind of things that to me, as a reader, are eye stopping. They break the cardinal rule of not interrupting the reader's attention.
C

Karen Duvall
08-17-2008, 08:26 PM
I get irritated when I read a "modern" story, with a copyright of 2007 or later, that excludes cell phones and has characters watching video tapes instead of DVDs. It was obviously written up to a decade ago and never updated before publication. A minor irritant, but I do notice and it bugs me.

Donkey
08-17-2008, 08:47 PM
As a reader, when I discover a typo, or read a scene that makes it clear that the author didn't do enough research or find anything that just doesn't fit, the flow is disrupted for me. It's an annoyance. It makes me think less of the author.
I don't want a reason to be brought back into the real world. I want to be so completed involved in the story that I forget.

As a writer, It's my job to go out of my way to avoid breaking the reader's concentration. That means I'm conscious of it all the time, and especially during revisions.

dianeP
08-17-2008, 08:48 PM
It's interesting to see the different things that can bother a reader.

In the story I'm working on, the heroine goes to a university. I researched, where the university is, the buildings, the campus, even the types of trees that grow on campus, where the students hang out... I found out as much as I could short of going there.
But what if I have my heroine sitting on the grass, reading. You or a friend of yours went to the same university and you know that you're not allowed to sit on the grass anywhere on campus?
I was driving myself nuts trying to find out every little detail... every little "what if?"

gypsyscarlett
08-17-2008, 09:02 PM
In an episode of Sex and the City, Carrie reads her boyfriend's book, loves it, but points out a flaw; a woman in New York would not go out in public wearing a scrunchy.

This may not be a concrete mistake, maybe just a matter of opinion, but,

As a reader, would this sort of thing bother you?

As a writer, how deep will you go into research to avoid this type of mistake?

Hi,

Well- that example really is a matter of opinion. Since I've seen women wearing scrunchies in every city I've ever been in- I'm going to assume some women wear them in NY, too. I've never seen the show, but isn't Carrie supposed to be some fashion snob?

As for real facts- it all depends. I try to just enjoy stories for their own sake. If someone was to mention a street in Boston as being oh-I-don't-know-let's say-five minutes from Park Street T station but I know it's really about a ten minute walk (at least) I'm not going to get all bothered.

But if someone is writing a murder mystery and they have someone slowly die of poison, it would greatly bother me if it turned out to have been cyanide. (which is pretty much instantaneous). I'd think a mystery writer should know the poison they are having their killer use! ;)

Kitty Pryde
08-17-2008, 10:29 PM
When I read or watch something and there is a nitpicky type error, it definitely throws me off, but I try not to let it interfere with my enjoyment of the story. I can think of it as my penance for being a smarty-pants know-it-all.

I really like the tv show "Chuck." It's about a nerd-turned-superspy. The premise of the show is that Chuck's friend got him kicked out of Stanford by planting the answer key to an exam in Chuck's dorm room. <Head explodes!> At Stanford, stealing test answers would be a violation of the Honor Code, for which you would be called before the judicial panel. A first time violation (what Chuck is framed for and accused of committing) earns you a one-quarter suspension, community service, and a 'No-pass' in the class at the very most! You can't get expelled unless you are a repeat offender AND THEN do something awful like plagiarize your entire thesis. Every alum knows this because the honor code and fundamental standard are drilled into our heads regularly. A kid on my ski team threw a bunch of ceramic dining hall plates out a third story window at passersby and then got angry and set a fire in the dorm stairwell using lighter fluid and fliers pulled off the wall! She got a one quarter suspension.

Anyway, so the premise doesn't make sense. And the writers could have easily done the research to figure that out. But the story is so good that I have to just let it go. I think that no matter what you write about, a reader who is an expert in your subject matter will pick up on mistakes, no matter how careful you are. and just hope that your story is good enough to avoid book-thrown-against-the-wall syndrome.

Bubastes
08-17-2008, 10:57 PM
I tend to let most things go if the story is good enough. However, I did read a story that put the University of Michigan in East Lansing. As a U-M grad, I found that mistake unforgivable. :D

Topaz044
08-17-2008, 11:41 PM
In my science fiction novel, there was a nuclear attack where some people survived. In order to permit them to survive, I made some scientific blunders. My brother-in-law pointed out these blunders in his own special way-he spent half an hour explaining why it wouldn't work, and then he took out a huge diagram he made especially for me equipped with pie charts and screaming people. And then his wife (my sister) told the rest of my family and they all laughed at me. Suffice to say, I quickly corrected that mistake!

Linda Adams
08-18-2008, 01:02 AM
Bear in mind, this is coming from critting, not reading published works. I run into a lot of stuff that just has sloppy details--things most people will probably identify as being wrong. A lot of times the writer simply isn't paying attention to their writing or doesn't think getting it right matters. But I've also seen some where it's really obvious they didn't do any research at all or watched a movie for research.

Stormhawk
08-18-2008, 01:26 AM
he took out a huge diagram he made especially for me equipped with pie charts and screaming people

<3

That's the cutest/most awesomest thing ever...

BarbaraKE
08-18-2008, 04:11 AM
I am as nitpicky about details as I can be and I tend to spend way to much time researching details which are ultimately not important. But my novel is set in 1870 Prussia and I'm a history buff so I enjoy the research.

I even know what time the moon rose and the phase of the moon on the dates mentioned so that I know if there would have been enough light to see at night. My goal is to have people wonder if the events in my story could have really happened. (Well, that and having an interesting, well-written story too).

Chumplet
08-18-2008, 04:30 AM
I took a few liberties with driving distance between Uxbridge and King City in my novel, and I hope local readers don't test my calculations by driving between the villages during a snowstorm!

Danger Jane
08-18-2008, 06:17 AM
I research everything I can, and absolutely everything that I'm uncertain of.

tehuti88
08-18-2008, 08:36 PM
I get irritated when I read a "modern" story, with a copyright of 2007 or later, that excludes cell phones and has characters watching video tapes instead of DVDs. It was obviously written up to a decade ago and never updated before publication. A minor irritant, but I do notice and it bugs me.

My family still watches the occasional video and has no cell phones. :o Though admittedly we are in the minority.

I think a point that sticks out for me concerning "liberties" or "mistakes" in fiction is also the frequency. Another reason why "The Scorpion King" bugged me so much. Just one big huge inaccuracy. It might be escapist fiction, but it is so lazy. If a writer is going to make up basically everything about the story, there's no point trying to base it on something in history or the real world.

*was not aware of the British "kilometers" thing either*

Grrarrgh
08-18-2008, 10:41 PM
...he took out a huge diagram he made especially for me equipped with pie charts and screaming people.

:roll: I'm sorry for laughing, I can just see my husband doing something exactly like this. And I got a quick flash of the pics of screaming people hung up on a pie chart.