PDA

View Full Version : Factual Errors in Fiction



MiloMinderbinder
06-28-2010, 03:11 AM
Does it bother you when you read fiction and there are factual errors?

I just finished Spider Robinson's Very Hard Choices. There's a minor character who uses her ability to influence probability to win a bundle at roulette in the Atlantic City Casinos. The only problem is that she does this in the 1960s and casino gambling didn't come to New Jersey until 1978.

There's no effect on the plot, but I did find it jarring.

I'm very OCD when it comes to research. I'm constantly afraid I'll make a mistake like this.


it's been 48 hours since I finished the book and it's still bothering me enough to post, but it's not like I'm going to give up reading his books.

What do you think when you run into something you know is "wrong" in a novel

sheadakota
06-28-2010, 03:29 AM
yes it does- I read a Nora Roberts book once that had a character involved in a car accident- serious head injury, on a ventilater, but wakes up just before he dies to utter his last words-

As an ICU nurse that bugged the hell out of me- Head injured patients don't just wake up and talk lucidly- and they absolutely don't wake up and TALK while intabated! (The tube goes between the vocal cords making it impossible to make any sound)

I still read nora- but yeah it bugged me.

Mr Flibble
06-28-2010, 03:45 AM
Does it bother you when you read fiction and there are factual errors

If it's not fantasy - yes. Sometimes even if it is, depending on the error. Horses need food...

Bubastes
06-28-2010, 03:52 AM
It bugs me a bit, but I usually move on. I did read one story where the author put University of Michigan in East Lansing. Anyone who's from Michigan knows that thems fightin' words.

Ryan_Sullivan
06-28-2010, 03:53 AM
It only bothers me if the book is, for example, a historical novel that's wrong about history. Personally, I look past anything that doesn't seem completely real.

scarletpeaches
06-28-2010, 03:57 AM
Yes it does.

kaitie
06-28-2010, 04:05 AM
Haha, I totally know what you mean, Shea. I always feel that way when you have the character come out of a coma and they're back on their feet and perfectly normal almost immediately--albeit probably with a case of amnesia. I always think that a person in a situation like that would be facing serious long-term physical rehabilitation and chances are if the injury is that serious, you're talking a head injury that isn't going to be something anyone will ever recover from completely.

As for facts in stories...it really depends. The casino thing would probably have made me laugh. I wouldn't have found it jarring and would probably have understood because honestly, how often do people think to check something like that? I usually try to, but it's entirely possible that I've got some place in a story somewhere that wasn't built that year or something. I don't think we can be expected to be perfect, and for something about when gambling was made legal, I would have no memory of that and it might just not occur to me. Granted, I'd probably have looked to make sure it was legal in that area before I wrote, and in the process probably would have come across the date, but I don't blame an author for something that minor.

Things like what Shea said are more likely to be jarring to me. I can be pretty forgiving about most things, but if someone has a mental or medical condition and they get the facts wrong it really bugs me, mostly because those things are relatively easy to find out. I always check with a doctor or someone before I write anything medical, even if it's something relatively minor. I had a character who was shot last time and I wanted to make sure I got the symptoms of shock right and find out where the bullet was placed and the kind of treatment she would need. This time I've got a guy with broken ribs and I'm currently waiting to hear back to find out a question about how bad they would be and what symptoms he'd face before I write a scene at which they play a factor.

So yeah, I do think authors should be expected to have basic facts. I mean, I obviously don't want to see a character driving a car fifty years before a car was invented or anything.

That being said (this is a rambly answer lol), I'll let a lot slide because something's fiction. You can move places around or change up laws or whatever and I won't care. Stephen King's the Long Walk takes place in real locations, but he takes liberties and moves things around, and I really don't care about that at all. After all, it's fiction. This might be a bad example, but even things like House, which could never happen in the real world because of so many factors, is insanely entertaining and I don't expect it to be representative of reality.

For me, the absolute worst thing an author can do is mess up his own world. Once you start introducing contradictions based on what's already been written, then you've lost me.

firedrake
06-28-2010, 04:06 AM
It does bug me.

I remember getting a bit annoyed with Stephen King's 'Christine'. I loved the book but he set the story in a place where I'd grown up. There's were little things that didn't really spoil the story, like having the Waldenbooks store on the wrong floor of the local mall, but then there was this absurd part of the plot where Arnie had to park Christine at Pittsburgh airport and it was supposed to be a convenient bus ride away from where he lived. It just isn't possible, because the airport is clear on the other side of the City and there's no direct bus service (or there wasn't at the time the book was written). It really bugged me.

Linda Adams
06-28-2010, 04:17 AM
It depends on the error. If it just looks like sloppy writing where the writer didn't care, then it's a problem. But I also understand that not everything factual is friendly to what the story needs, and in some cases, actual facts get in the way of a good story. I love treasure hunt adventure stories, and a lot of those wouldn't exist if the writers adhered strictly to the facts. Sometimes the facts need to be fudged to make the story work. I had to do it in mine because it made the timeline for the story too tight (the first event was a pre-exhibition viewing for an auction. Research showed it was a certain number of days before the auction. I had to add two days).

leahzero
06-28-2010, 05:25 AM
Yes, factual errors in fiction bug the snot out of me, unless the "errors" are obviously deliberate for plot purposes, like alternative histories.

But in the case of fiction that aims for realism, this can usually be avoided with better research and better plotting.

For example, in the case of the patient on the ventilator who wakes to lucidly speak his last words before dying: the writer could have had him sustain internal injuries that would kill him just as dead, but that could have left him lucid and able to speak before dying.

It was obviously just laziness and sloppiness on the author's part. I'm surprised their editor(s) didn't catch the error.

If your book follows the rules of reality 99.98% of the time, but then randomly subverts reality to push the plot forward, I lose my suspension of disbelief. There's always a better way to plot and write your way through such a situation.

In fantasy, the subversion of reality is firmly established early on. I do occasionally find that authors will try to bring in a bit of realism and fail, usually when it comes to injuries and the body, or scientific explanations for magic. Best to just stay firmly in the realm of fantasy instead of trying to add a veneer of realism, IMO.

kaitie
06-28-2010, 06:13 AM
I think a lot of times things like the ventilator issue aren't laziness as much as writers believing what they see on TV.

If you think about it, there are an awful lot of completely factually inaccurate things in TV and movies and books all the time, particularly relating to guns and medicine. For instance, 98% of things involving amnesia out there are completely wrong and make no sense if you're someone who understands psychological amnesia or the way head trauma works. Same for things like comas or head injuries. Or the idea that shooting at a car will make it blow up.

The thing is, there are certain tropes that are so common that the average person believes them. They stand out to those of us who know better, but I'm not sure it's laziness as just not having ever been informed about the way things really work. I know that you could argue that it's the author's job to make certain of that (and I always try to and even poke fun at those crazy things you see on TV), but I can definitely see how seeing something done enough times makes you believe it's accurate. The author should perhaps be more concerned with avoiding cliche.

I do think that it makes a big difference if the subversion of reality is established in the first place. I think comic books are always my best example. Anyone who reads them is aware of "comic book science." All those explanations that realistically would never possibly work, but simply being in a comic book makes it something you believe anyway.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who was telling me about a guy who teleported with Superman outside the sun (which had been put out and needed to be reignited lol) and how they had teleported sitting on a couch. Now, the funny thing about this is that I immediately accepted the whole sun being put out thing--even though that would be completely impossible in the real world. My first question was, "But wait...why didn't his lungs implode?"

The answer was "Because his costume is designed so that he can breathe in space."

Again, could a piece of cloth over someone's face really do that? If you were writing a science fiction book you'd better have a darn good explanation for how that happens or your audience is going to laugh in your face. But in comic books it's okay. I just said, "Aah, comic book science," and accepted it. :tongue

Jamesaritchie
06-28-2010, 05:03 PM
Factual errors drive me insane. There is no excuse, and it's a rare writer who can keep me reading when they screw up a fact that could have been answered correctly with a few minutes research.

JamieFord
06-28-2010, 05:43 PM
I'm always looking for verisimilitude rather than 100% accuracy. Or as Stephen Colbert would say, "truthiness." As long as the setting and details are immersive, I don't get hung up on minutiae. Otherwise I'd only read non-fiction.

DeleyanLee
06-28-2010, 05:52 PM
I just ask the question: Did I notice the error while I was reading?

If I did, then the author didn't have me enough engulfed in the story that I could think independently from it, so the book had bigger problems than a factual error. I become disappointed and think twice and maybe three times before buying that author again.

If I didn't, then I was completely engulfed in the story, completely with the author and didn't give two wits about facts and real life. I go out and buy that author's backlist in hopes that they can do that again and again and again because that's the experience I read for.

Lost World
06-28-2010, 06:04 PM
Factual errors are largely inexcusable these days because we have the option of researching our facts via the internet. The information is there and easily accessible; to not use it in our writing is lazy, sloppy storytelling. I have no tolerance for authors who permit the most glaring factual errors, especially when they're getting paid for it.

DeleyanLee
06-28-2010, 06:06 PM
Factual errors are largely inexcusable these days because we have the option of researching our facts via the internet. The information is there and easily accessible; to not use it in our writing is lazy, sloppy storytelling. I have no tolerance for authors who permit the most glaring factual errors, especially when they're getting paid for it.

I'm sorry--are you saying that everything on the internet should be taken as factual and worthy of being used as serious reference?

MGraybosch
06-28-2010, 06:13 PM
I'm sorry--are you saying that everything on the internet should be taken as factual and worthy of being used as serious reference?

No, just the cat videos and the porn. :evil

Chris P
06-28-2010, 06:18 PM
Being trained as a technical writer, I am fanatical about accuracy. There are people who will argue anything, even if they are wrong, so I rely on facts and the input of experts.

Soccer Mom
06-28-2010, 06:20 PM
I'm always looking for verisimilitude rather than 100% accuracy. Or as Stephen Colbert would say, "truthiness." As long as the setting and details are immersive, I don't get hung up on minutiae. Otherwise I'd only read non-fiction.

This.

But I admit that I have my "hot-button" issues, things that turn up over and over and are flat out wrong. It gets me riled up. I love historical fiction, but if I see another "the will ordered them to marry" plot, I just might throw the book against the wall.

Lost World
06-28-2010, 06:31 PM
I'm sorry--are you saying that everything on the internet should be taken as factual and worthy of being used as serious reference?

Not everything. But some solid digging on the internet should yield the author results that can be used as serious references. If nothing else, the most basic research on websites that aren't the best source of esoteric information (eg. wikipedia) can prevent inexcusable screwups--the dates wars started and ended, for example. I've seen the ages of Vietnam veterans misrepresented in several stories--and yes, I've taken their ages into account for when the stories were written. Such a glaring error was inexcusable even in the age before the internet. We did (and still do, thank God) have libraries.

Kate Thornton
06-28-2010, 08:07 PM
Errors bug me - you can always make stuff up in fiction and if you're good it's believable. But don't try to pass off laziness as creative license or I'll use my Reader's Authority to revoke it.

kaitiepaige17
06-28-2010, 08:12 PM
Yes. Researching--even if you're writing fiction--is part of the job. A character in my current MS was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the early 1900's, so I had to make sure these disorders were even recognized then. I think it's just sloppy and lazy when writers don't research what they're writing about, even if it's something minor.

shaldna
06-28-2010, 09:56 PM
yeah, it bothers me. especially historical things, or medical issues. I mean, why write about those things if you can't be bothered to learn anything about them first?

Nymtoc
06-29-2010, 05:05 AM
It depends both on the nature of the error and on the genre. In any kind of fiction, if you are describing a scene that includes gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, you had better get it right. Technically informed readers will spot the error and throw your book out the window.

On the other hand, I regard some factual errors as forgivable. Example: A writer has a character look out the window of a certain hotel in Monte Carlo and see a tower of the casino (maybe it's important for dialog or for the character's thoughts). It turns out you can't see the casino from that location. Is this bad? Well, it's sloppy, but I can live with it. Furthermore, there can be reasons for a writer to do that sort of thing deliberately.

In terms of genre, mystery readers are especially alert to factual errors, and well they might be, since so much in a mystery depends on facts. If you get medical facts or police procedure wrong, the informed mystery reader stops reading.

Clearly, you should avoid mistakes even with highly technical knowledge (water diffusion in the giant axon of the squid). But making a mistake with something that is common knowledge is inexcusable. I once read a mystery--I'll be kind and not mention the author's name--where people were singing "Sailing, sailing, over the bounty main!" Well, there is an old song like that, but the word isn't "bounty." It's "bounding."

No excuses. None. :cool:

Ruth2
06-29-2010, 07:11 AM
If it's glaringly obvious-- yes. Absolutely yes.

Example: I read a mystery about 15 years ago. The author referred to Fort Worth Catholic High. Nope. Nope. Nope. It's Monsignor Robert M. Nolan Catholic High School. Has been for years-- since 1963. A phone call would have cleared that up. One little phone call to the library, or the Chamber of Commerce, or anyone in Tarrant County. Or the diocese. But he didn't, and I haven't been able to read him since.

benbradley
06-29-2010, 08:39 AM
Does it bother you when you read fiction and there are factual errors?

I just finished Spider Robinson's Very Hard Choices. There's a minor character who uses her ability to influence probability to win a bundle at roulette in the Atlantic City Casinos. The only problem is that she does this in the 1960s and casino gambling didn't come to New Jersey until 1978.
Oh, no, SF author Spider Robinson! Not sure if I've read any of his fiction, but I've read a couple of his reviews, notable of Heinlein's later novels, and co-author of "Variable Star" an incomplete manuscript at Heinlein's death. He would be (probably is by now) SO ASHAMED at that...

Larry Niven wrote about this (errors in SF stories) some decades ago - in SF fandom finding factual errors is called "The Game" - Niven wrote than in the beginning of "Ringworld" his description of Earth has it turning the wrong way, and the first edition would probably be collectible because of that (actually it's collectible because it was a quite popular book, perhaps Niven's masterpiece).



I'm sorry--are you saying that everything on the internet should be taken as factual and worthy of being used as serious reference?
It should be easy enough to google something like
history of New Jersy casinos
and find the correct information at a dozen sites, two of them lamenting how Robinson got it wrong in that novel... there may be incorrect info on when New Jersey casinos started, but I'm sure anyone who looks at more than one site on the topic would come to the correct conclusion. On the other hand, some people's idea of research is putting in a search string, perhaps worded in the form of a question, and hitting the "I feel lucky" button. That's not Internet research, that's misuse and abuse of the greatest information resource ever.

(with nods to Alex Trebek and Clint Eastwood)

If it's glaringly obvious-- yes. Absolutely yes.

Example: I read a mystery about 15 years ago. The author referred to Fort Worth Catholic High. Nope. Nope. Nope. It's Monsignor Robert M. Nolan Catholic High School. Has been for years-- since 1963. A phone call would have cleared that up. One little phone call to the library, or the Chamber of Commerce, or anyone in Tarrant County. Or the diocese. But he didn't, and I haven't been able to read him since.
It might not even take a phone call. I remember when libraries used to have phone books from many other cities around the US.

I remember not only phone books, but people using them.

My local small town/rural phone company still prints one, and I grab a copy so I have something to start a fire with in the winter.

I'm just speculating here, but this could be an interesting case:

On the other hand, I regard some factual errors as forgivable. Example: A writer has a character look out the window of a certain hotel in Monte Carlo and see a tower of the casino (maybe it's important for dialog or for the character's thoughts). It turns out you can't see the casino from that location. Is this bad? Well, it's sloppy, but I can live with it. Furthermore, there can be reasons for a writer to do that sort of thing deliberately.
I know more of these hotel towers and casinos go up all the time, so it COULD be that when the author wrote that, one COULD see the tower, but something else got built in between and is now in the way.

DancingMaenid
06-29-2010, 09:39 AM
Factual errors bug me a lot. Even if the story is very good, I still tend to notice them. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean realism doesn't matter, in my opinion.

Of course, I'm also an avid researcher, myself. I really enjoy it and it's a favorite part of the story-planning phase for me. I've been able to learn about a lot of interesting things I wouldn't have otherwise looked into.



Example: I read a mystery about 15 years ago. The author referred to Fort Worth Catholic High. Nope. Nope. Nope. It's Monsignor Robert M. Nolan Catholic High School. Has been for years-- since 1963. A phone call would have cleared that up. One little phone call to the library, or the Chamber of Commerce, or anyone in Tarrant County. Or the diocese. But he didn't, and I haven't been able to read him since.

Is it possible that the author didn't want to refer to a real high school? I can forgive things like that sometimes.

kuwisdelu
06-30-2010, 12:34 AM
Depends if it's important to the story.

Shadow_Ferret
06-30-2010, 12:40 AM
It depends. If the factual error is committed by an author I like, I'll overlook it. If it's committed by an author I have no attachment to, then I get really really upset and never read their works again. :D

DianeL
06-30-2010, 06:16 AM
I'd caveat any interpretation of "errors" in fiction with a definition of the term in my own immediate reading context. If an inaccuracy is clearly not accidental, but a choice by an author for some identifiable reason, I am ready to stick with WSD and go with it. Yes, even medical and scientific errors. And I'm a physics professor's daughter.

But if someone puts UMich in East Lansing, that's just slipshod, and I am under no obligation to forget what I know of the world because someone else felt no responsibility to learn it in the first place. No author gets to ask that much without so much as a "by your leave milady" - it's pointless.

As JamieFord put it, verisimilitude. Not ALL errors are screwups, and some may even be known/intentional. There are times it's more comfortable to suspend disbelief (*and* JUDGMENT about strict factuality - for fiction, after all) if the story justifies following where it is going. I think I'm saying something like DeyalanLee, in that it's about WSD at the end of the day - which is guided by the story. Sometimes, I actually like to let go, relax, and dig the cheese. (I am a Star Trek fan, and watched all the "Highlander" series when those were still airing. I am ideally suited to allowing my entertainment to set its terms.)

This discussion is very like the Historical Accuracy thread over in the genre section, where I say basically that history must be respected, yes - but also that the minute a writer is worrying about the "guitarist at the back of the bar" who's sneering about how much better they could do, that writer is no longer serving the story, but her or his mental audience. This is not always a favor for one's readers; and rarely a good aspect in storytelling. If I wrote everything while wondering in the back of my mind what, for instance, everyone in this very thread was going to think about it I would not be able to get a blame thing done. So what's more important? Satisfying the "guitarists" - or satisfying the work?

kuwisdelu
06-30-2010, 06:56 AM
I'd caveat any interpretation of "errors" in fiction with a definition of the term in my own immediate reading context. If an inaccuracy is clearly not accidental, but a choice by an author for some identifiable reason, I am ready to stick with WSD and go with it. Yes, even medical and scientific errors. And I'm a physics professor's daughter.

And interestingly, most physicists I know go for soft sci-fi over hard sci-fi. There might be many more "factual errors," but they don't matter to the heart of the story.

DianeL
06-30-2010, 07:19 AM
Hee. My dad quite liked the Douglas Adams he read once - the jokes about physicists likely nailed it for him. Dad wasn't what one could reasonably call a stickler. But he was a prodigious reader!

Matera the Mad
07-02-2010, 06:09 PM
They bother me as much as apostrophleas, mizpeligns, fullstop capitalized Hesaids, and dropped commas.

Shadow_Ferret
07-02-2010, 06:20 PM
They bother me as much as apostrophleas, mizpeligns, fullstop capitalized Hesaids, and dropped commas.

What?

C.M. Daniels
07-02-2010, 11:51 PM
Errors like that tend to bug the snot out of me. When I come across one, it will bug me for the rest of the book.

I read one about a year ago where the author had Edwards AFB in New Mexico, the US military still driving Jeeps in 2005, and all sorts of craziness that could have easily been remedied by a trip to the library.

Part of my job is doing meticulous research, so it always blows my mind a little when authors can't do some simple fact-finding. It's easy, I do it all the time for my manuscripts.

Torill
07-05-2010, 11:01 PM
My reactions are not very principled, I'm afraid. If there is an error in something I know very well - and care about - I might get irritated. But if it's nothing to do with any of my hang-ups I don't necessarily care that much - unless it's so unrealistic it's ridiculous.

I mean - normally I wouldn't care about things like a building on the wrong side of the street. It's too minor, and expecting the same level of intensive research on every detail no matter their importance to the fictional universe in question seems a bit obsessive-compulsive to me.

But. Placing a building on the wrong side of my street? Now that's unforgivable!

Like I said, not very principled...

DianeL
07-05-2010, 11:32 PM
Hee. Unprincipled writers. What's next, authors who are alcoholics? Or poet eccentrics!?

Some of this sort of thing is why I like to REMOVE myself when writing. Choosing a subject far enough off the beaten path, and long enough ago, that nobody can do much in the way of sneering about the way "it *really* was" - my research has been contextual, so I've placed things congruent to possibility. But my whole interest in writing is to get away from "the real world", so anyone who wants to correct what I've created - kind of can't be living in the real world. Heh.

Torill
07-05-2010, 11:53 PM
Yeah, that's one way to avoid the too nitpicky readers - situate your story somewhere outside of their experience!

I write a story with some fantasy elements - maybe it's an 'urban fantasy' - not too sure what to call it yet, not my focus for now - and I have situated it in a Western (probably) European city with a river running through it. It may be London. Or it may not. I'm not saying. Go check a map - how many cities in Western Europe have rivers running through them? Yeah, that's my point.

(And it's not just because I'm too lazy to do research. I don't want it to be too specific. It's maybe not a city of this world. It's not about geography. But this is off topic for this thread...)

spike
07-06-2010, 09:19 AM
Does it bother you when you read fiction and there are factual errors?

I just finished Spider Robinson's Very Hard Choices. There's a minor character who uses her ability to influence probability to win a bundle at roulette in the Atlantic City Casinos. The only problem is that she does this in the 1960s and casino gambling didn't come to New Jersey until 1978.

There's no effect on the plot, but I did find it jarring.

I'm very OCD when it comes to research. I'm constantly afraid I'll make a mistake like this.


it's been 48 hours since I finished the book and it's still bothering me enough to post, but it's not like I'm going to give up reading his books.

What do you think when you run into something you know is "wrong" in a novel


That would bother me, AC casinos in the 60's. But, I was born in Atlantic City and spent most of my life there.

I also was annoyed at the Billy Joel song "Allentown", because I lived there too. He seemed to think that Allentown was in the coal region. I could forgive the Allentown/Bethlehem mistakes because half the people who lived here worked at The Steel.

But I'll bet most of the people didn't know these things, and probably didn't care if they were pointed out.

What bothers me most (and I see this in movies/tv more than books) is the way crimes are dismissed without any police type investigation. Like when the hero shoots a bunch of bad guys and gets in his car and leaves.

Or characters who can leave their jobs to go solve a mystery. Or hop a plane off to Europe. Who is paying their rent during this time? Who is walking their dog? Changing the litterbox or watering the plants?

Or people who have cancer, and run around and do all the things they wanted to do before they die. Cancer is an illness, and most people are very, very sick. Particularly close to the end.

I think it is sloppy writing, and somebody is going to notice.

Torill
07-06-2010, 10:03 AM
What bothers me most (and I see this in movies/tv more than books) is the way crimes are dismissed without any police type investigation. Like when the hero shoots a bunch of bad guys and gets in his car and leaves.

Or characters who can leave their jobs to go solve a mystery. Or hop a plane off to Europe. Who is paying their rent during this time? Who is walking their dog? Changing the litterbox or watering the plants?

Or people who have cancer, and run around and do all the things they wanted to do before they die. Cancer is an illness, and most people are very, very sick. Particularly close to the end.

I know where you're coming from - blatantly unrealistic, all of it. But I guess it's the level of intended realism that determines whether it bothers me or not. Most of the crime or romance stories where these things tend to happen are more like fairy tales, so I expect no great level of realism from them anyway. If the story is entertaining enough, I might be OK with it. I might even think that reports about litterboxes or rent-paying would distract from the fun parts.

To a certain degree I see this as a genre question. But some things do bother me more than others. Patients who behave as if they could join the olympics when they're supposed to be on the brink of death bothers me more than the hero never facing crime investigations, for instance. But maybe that's not so much about level of realism as it is about level of sentimentality...

gabbleandhiss
07-07-2010, 01:29 AM
Or characters who can leave their jobs to go solve a mystery. Or hop a plane off to Europe. Who is paying their rent during this time? Who is walking their dog? Changing the litterbox or watering the plants?


I don't see the problem in this. I've skipped the country on short notice. You put a post-dated check in the rent slot. No biggie. You leave signed checks with a friend/relative/associate/employee so they can pay the bills OR you pay the bills online OR you have an accountant take care of it. No biggie. You ask the neighbor to water the plants OR you ask the apartment management to do it. No biggie. I've taken care of plants and pets while the neighbors were out of town. And when I used to work at an apt. complex tenants would ask me to feed their fish. Otherwise, you take the mutt to the doggie hotel. You have someone pick up your mail. You ask the landlord to throw it on your apt. floor. You fill out a form online at the USPS site to have your mail held. If the mailman for your apt. complex is concerned about all the junk stuffed in your box, he will talk to management about what to do with your mail. If you have a P.O. Box then the mailman doesn't give a rat's ass about your mail until the box is too full or your renewal fee is due. Etc. Etc.

I would hate to read about these boring organizational actions in any given novel, but I would expect the writer to give the reader some sort of heads up on the matter. So long as the character is not a moron, what's the big deal? Now, if the writer makes all these things happen over the course of the character's lunch break, that's a different story. If the character is a complete n00b when it comes to travel AND is able to quickly organize this type of getaway then feel free to launch the book at the wall.