If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Look for our new bloggers this month. Debra Sennefelder will blog on 1/15, and Debra Goldstein debuts on 1/22. Please welcome our double Debs to WWK.

Don't miss our January author interviews: 1/10-Lawrence H. Levy, 1/17-Kaye George, 1/24-Janet Bolin, 1/31-Kathy Aarons. And E. B. Davis will interview Shari Randall on Monday 1/29 about the publication of her first novel, Curses, Boiled Again. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our January Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 1/6-Becky Clark, Pat Hale, Leslie Karst, Edith Maxwell, Shawn McGuire, C. Perkins, and Sue Star, and 1/13-Polly Iyer. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 1/20, and Kait Carson on 1/27.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Fiction or Fact

I’m an open-minded reader of many genres. But I do notice mistakes. We all have our own areas of expertise, and we can’t know it all (unless you’re able to hire research assistants). Mistakes are important if they take the reader out of the story. I fume page after page wondering why the author couldn’t have taken ten minutes to look up the information. I once asked an author about a mistake I caught in one of her books. She replied that it was a case of thinking that she knew something when she didn’t. My intention wasn’t to belittle her, but to inform her as gently as possible that the error took me out of her story.

It’s hard to check every single fact when writing, and as a reader, I don’t usually check author’s facts. When I read a cozy based around needlework, like Marcia Ferris’s books, I don’t have a clue if her needlework instructions are bogus. Frankly, I don’t care because I’m not reading the story for the craft. When a series focuses on cooking, like Krista Davis’s series, I have more astuteness, but then I do my (more than my) share of cooking. I learn a lot from my authors about history, crafts, religion and various vocations. The authors may be just making it all up, but I doubt it. Most of us want to write with integrity.

I belong to a writers’ group, which enables authors to ask experts questions so that they “get it right.” I’m also attending the Writer’s Police Academy at the end of the month to increase my knowledge of police procedure, jurisdiction and technology. Because I’m not an expert, I wonder if after my attendance at the Academy whether I will start to catch errors, which begs me to question the purist vs. the pure of heart debate.

In a peer critique of a short story I wrote, the writer noted that I used the wrong type of boat. He was right, so I did some research and changed the boat type. But then, the editor didn’t understand, and thinking my reference was generic, redlined it, making me laugh. The right type of boat wasn’t actually very important. I thought being specific gave me more authenticity. The editor knew that my reader wouldn’t understand or care about the reference.

I wrote a story in which a nearing-retirement police officer let my main character, a teenager, slide when she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My editor had a police officer double checking our facts. The police editor called me in error because my police officer did not follow procedure. No, my character didn’t follow procedure. It wasn’t my error. It was my character’s error. He was a softy. Police officers are human and sometimes don’t follow procedure, as evidenced by a conversation I overheard between my daughter and her aunt, who both confessed to using tears to avoid getting speeding tickets. Yes, their method worked. The police editor was so caught up in fact fault-finding, he missed the point.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of crime romance, those novels that start out with a scary criminal situation with a damsel in distress. Of course, her hero helps her save the day and then they fall-in-love and live happily-ever-after. In part, I’m reading them for research, but I’ve also found them entertaining, bringing me back to my internal debate.

Crime romance authors write for the pure of heart. Purists read police procedurals. I enjoy reading both, but my motivation is to be entertained. The primary goal of my writing is to entertain. I’m not suggesting that authors forget about getting their facts right, but I’ve also found that most of the research that I do gets edited out because it isn’t necessary nor germane, or my character just doesn’t care about what he’s supposed to do.

Do you know when to say when to research? Do you wish more of the nitty-gritty had been redlined when reading a story that has bogged itself down six feet under, or does all that authentic detail fascinate you and add to the author’s authenticity?


Warren Bull said...

First, your editor was wrong about the boat; it did matter. People familiar with boats will experience a "bump" that will knock them out of the story and they will lose the enjoyment of being totally engaged. The editor's error makes you, the writer appear careless. I think I would have argued that issue. In my experience, the (few) knowledgeable readers who catch mistakes are less likely to return to that writer. Small mistakes are unavoidable but there is one writer I will never read again because of his sloppy research on something that matters to me personally.

E. B. Davis said...

I kept the type of boat in the story, Warren, because I thought that it added authenticity. But a certain type of reader will gloss over the type of boat and just rely on my description.

If I had named the wrong type of boat,which I at first did, then that would have been a problem because my description wouldn't have matched the boat type.(My thanks, BTW.)

So I finally got it right and left it in, which given another type of reader, will enhance the story. But by my descriptions, that reader should have been able to identify the type of boat anyway.

Pauline Alldred said...

I think naming the right boat was important although I wouldn't have noticed if you'd left in the wrong one. However, if the story went into paragraphs of details about the operation or design of the boat my eyes would gloss over and the book or e-device would fall out of my hand.

Writers need to be familiar with professions that are part of their stories but endless research details and too much language specific to that profession can be as distracting as errors.

For years, I've seen the nursing profession erroneously displayed in stories. Most nurses don't look up to doctors as superior beings or want to romance them but that's what many readers like to see. That's why I liked Nurse Ratchett so much--she was different and against stereotype.

Warren Bull said...

EB, I'm glad you kept the right type of boat. I know of one reader who stopped reading Lee Child because he thought the author misstated the time involved needed to complete a particular type of military training. As Pauline said, it is easy to over-do details. In one early version of a story I described a black powder rifle in such detail that readers could have built one from the notes in the story.

E. B. Davis said...

LOL! Warren. Sometimes that happens in crafting and cooking mysteries. And then they give you the recipe or a graph of the project. It's nice, but quite unnecessary.