Attention to Detail

Recently, I read a general-market novel that, for the most part, held together. Except I wish the novel ended sooner because I started to get bored.

That aside, the author seemed to know the topics discussed but, for whatever reason, completely missed the mark when describing a popular hotel chain. The story said the logo is red. It is outlined in red, but the logo can hardly be described as red.

The story needed a hotel that has room service. Unfortunately, the author chose a hotel chain that does not have room service. A Google search reveals this fact. I did see one exception where the adjacent hotel provided room service, but that might be the only location in the country where this applies. If so, the novel should have said so.

This inaccuracy (and the logo miss) jumped out at me because I’m quite familiar with the chain. I’ve stayed at many of its locations all over the country. The rooms are clean and spacious enough, and the free breakfast isn’t worth the price. My family stays there for reliability at a reasonable cost. But none of us brags about staying there. It’s hardly a destination hotel.

And yet, the chain deserves more respect than an inaccurate description. Perhaps the novelist made the chain contort to the plot. I could have bought into this if I hadn’t been so very, very familiar with the chain. I found such broad inaccuracies off-putting. I was willing to go along with the story well enough, but my faith in the author waned at this point. As a novelist, I would have made up a private hotel and described it as a modest family place or simply left the chain unnamed and let the reader fill in the blanks. But name a chain and get not one but two huge details dead wrong? Not if I could help it.

As Steve Laube likes to say, “Google is a marvelous thing.”

Your turn:

Have you lost faith in an author for missing a detail?

Do you mind if an author forces something to fit into a plot?

What is your favorite way to research?

92 Responses to Attention to Detail

  1. Avatar
    Ruth January 24, 2019 at 5:01 am #

    Funny you wrote about this because I’m researching for my WIP right now! My book is fiction but because part of it is set in Iraq, I needed Google maps for details. I’ve also reached out to Iraq war veterans to run my information by them for accuracy. Although it’s fiction, it’s still best to run certain parts by the experts. I’ve enjoyed it so far but must admit that creating my own world is much easier! Not much research involved.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:42 am #

      Thank you for doing that research. That must be both challenging and rewarding!

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    Danise January 24, 2019 at 5:08 am #

    I absolutely agree with this. It doesn’t take much for me to ponder something that I’ve read. I love novels for the fact that I can get lost in my imagination. Bring up something that should be true and a fact, and I will question it, try as I might not to. I agree, make up a chain or a name.

  3. Avatar
    Diana Harkness January 24, 2019 at 5:15 am #

    I almost lose faith when I find wrong words, misplaced metaphors, and other problems that would have been caught by a good editor/proofreader. In those cases, I notify the authors. I am not well-travelled so I don’t always know if an author describes a place rightly, but if a notable feature seems unbelievable I will look it up. I do not use business names in anything I write, because businesses close. And I do google places I am not familiar with and read everything about them because I do not want to make a geographical or cultural mistake. Yes, authors, please please check your facts before you publish and don’t make your readers do it for you. I too lose interest in a book if there are mistakes.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:47 am #

      Yes, and being accurate on big facts does help readers learn a little along the way, too!

  4. Avatar
    Ginny Graham January 24, 2019 at 5:21 am #

    A popular Christian author’s protaganist watched a semi (which had just jackknifed during a tornado) “pull out into the median”. What is wrong with this picture?

    My husband onced owned a trucking company and I took the call from a trucker who said he had a called a wrecker because they were jackknifed on the freeway. I asked him why they needed a wrecker? He replied; think of it, the 90 degree angle, unless you are on a very flat surface it’s almost impossible to pull out of a jackknife.

    Research is so important!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:49 am #

      I hadn’t thought of that but I’ll bet every reader who knows trucking caught it!

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      Jennifer Mugrage January 26, 2019 at 9:32 pm #

      My husband is a trucker.

      Most people don’t realize the limitations that physics places on big trucks. And so, we do stupid things that put us and the truckers in danger.

      Remember that old song, “Give me 40 acres and I’ll turn this truck around?”

  5. Avatar
    Darlene L. Turner January 24, 2019 at 5:33 am #

    Even the smallest inaccurate detail can jump out from the page to the reader and ruin a writer’s credibility. Thanks for this reminder to be sure we research, research, research!!

  6. Avatar
    Lori Hatcher January 24, 2019 at 5:34 am #

    You’re right, Tamela, the trust a reader places in the author somehow grows smaller with every missed detail, even if it’s not a critical part of the story. And reader trust is priceless.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:50 am #

      “Reader trust is priceless” is a good sentiment for authors to print out and tape to the wall!

  7. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson January 24, 2019 at 6:00 am #

    In most cases I, not all, I opt to makeup names of hotels, restaurants, and streets. I even removed the name of a famous coffee shop from my novel just so I could make it fit like I want it to in my plot. In one of my novels I named a famous restaurant in my area and had them serving hamburgers. After researching the menu, I discovered they are an Italian restaurant. Needless to say, I had to make some changes to correct my error. It is distracting to read a novel naming well-known places and find descriptions that are not correct.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:52 am #

      Such a good reminder! When readers read about their city, especially about a restaurant or other spot they visit, they really want that accuracy. They feel betrayed if their favorite spot is misrepresented. Glad you looked at that menu!

    • Avatar
      Ruth Douthitt January 25, 2019 at 6:50 am #

      Me, too! I read a book set in my hometown and it was too distracting. Instead of focusing on the plot, I kept picturing the streets and landmarks in my head for accuracy. I prefer to read about fictional cities, towns. Although, the author of “The Historian,” does a fantastic job of describing Eastern European cities and streets I have been to. She researched for ten years and it paid off. A must read!

  8. Avatar
    Terri L Gillespie January 24, 2019 at 6:27 am #

    Oh. Great point. Anything that takes the reader out of the story is not a good thing. I don’t mind adaptations to real-life locales if it’s a brief reference. I can accept a little poetic license.

    However, places or concepts — especially Biblical culture and context — that are important to me will punch a hole in the “trust bucket.” Too many holes and I will think twice about buying another book by that author.

    Great reminder.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:53 am #

      The Bible is so important that I think authors of Biblical fiction need to be especially sensitive to accuracy, to the best of their ability.

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    Damon J. Gray January 24, 2019 at 6:55 am #

    Spot on, Tamela. But I am surprised an editor did not catch and correct this. How did the misstep make it into print?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 7:54 am #

      My guess is that the editor simply didn’t know the chain at all and trusted that the author had it right. I don’t know this — just guessing.

  10. Avatar
    Maco Stewart January 24, 2019 at 7:06 am #

    I was trundling along happily through a Kindle Unlimited shoot-’em-up when in a climactic scene, a minor character pushed off the safety on his Glock. It was immediately evident that despite all of the gunplay in the novel, the author had never picked up a Glock or investigated Glocks much online. I wasn’t being snotty, but this wrenching out of my suspension of disbelief was irremediable. I don’t know how the novel ended, but I contacted the author, who responded with the literary equivalent of a shrug and said other people had told him that, too.

    How much better for us to seek out knowledgeable beta readers before our work reaches the point of no return. All it takes is that one wee bit of glaring laziness or ignorance to damage a reader’s experience.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 8:01 am #

      I’m so glad you mentioned beta readers, Maco! They can really help an author. I read about Glocks all the time and trust the authors to know the weapons they write about. How disappointing when an author not only makes a mistake but doesn’t seem to care. I wonder how many readers this author lost. Obviously the author didn’t understand how passionate readers are about guns. Regardless, the author should have taken more care.

  11. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka January 24, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Thanks for the reminder about the importance of making sure our details are accurate. Depending on the missed detail and how much I am enjoying the story when I come across an inaccuracy, it may be enough to cause me to stop reading that author.

    I read a book by a very well-known author who spelled the name of a very popular destination in my state wrong. Not just once, but through the entire novel. This really bugged me because it’s such an easy fix. I was surprised even the editor of the story didn’t catch it. I have since read more of this author’s books, but when I see inaccuracies like this, it puts me on guard about future details that may pop out at me in this author’s stories.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 8:03 am #

      Wow, that’s a pretty amazing error. Like you, I wonder why a proofreader didn’t catch this even if no one else did.

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    Kirsten Panachyda January 24, 2019 at 7:18 am #

    Yes, i left a novel when the protagonist traveled to Paris and saw every sight in the city on her train ride from the airport.

  13. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 24, 2019 at 7:27 am #

    If jesus is our model
    then we’ve got to get it right,
    from the logo on the bottle
    to the tail upon the kite.
    We write of things we think we now
    but Jesus nows them all,
    we think from us our stories flow
    but really, it’s His call.
    The tales we weave are His own,
    we merely run the loom
    and ensure the shuttle’s flown
    with accuracy; don’t assume!
    He counts each hair, knows sparrows’ natter,
    so heed example – details matter.

  14. Avatar
    Megan DiMaria January 24, 2019 at 7:41 am #

    Exactly! I once read a novel that opened in Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine Great Hunger. The main character immigrated to the US and found a job as a newspaper reporter. This set off red bells because at the time it was illegal for the Irish to be educated, and most of the population was illiterate. If somehow the character had been educated in what the Irish called hedge schools (meaning the lessons were taught secretly in the countryside under a hedge), then the author needed to state that. That book was book #1 in a series. I could barely finish the book and didn’t continue the series. It was too bad because the writing was beautiful, but I knew the premise was unlikely.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 8:07 am #

      Megan, your comment speaks to the larger point of how now most of us now take literacy for granted. I learned much from your comment here! Not only was the author asking the reader to buy in to an unlikely scenario, but missed a chance to make a great point about literacy and education that would have been organic to the story. Too bad!

  15. Avatar
    Brennan S. McPherson January 24, 2019 at 7:48 am #

    I get it, and strive to be accurate in everything I write. But even books written by very intelligent, seasoned writers with three editors, two proofreaders, a typesetter, and more combing through the manuscript miss details like this. In general, we as readers should be openhanded toward authors and their books, and more willing to overlook minor missteps. Because really, what did those goofs have to do with the story or characters? I find the general impact of demanding perfect research is that readers (I’m speaking to fellow Christian readers here) blast people in reviews. As I read the New Testament, we’re supposed to be gentle, kind, peaceable, and open-handed toward people’s genuine hard work. Just my two cents. 2 Timothy 2:14 “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.”

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 8:14 am #

      Brennan, I agree that as readers we shouldn’t make a point of looking for errors. A critical spirit is not Christlike. And research isn’t perfect no matter what. My hope with this post is to encourage and remind authors to be careful. Another fact we must consider today is that readers may have gone with the flow in the past but now have Google readily available for fact checking. Verifying a fact could have necessitated a trip to the library in the past and most readers would not have bothered. But now it’s so easy to follow up on something that bothers you that it’s better for authors to be super vigilant today. By the same token, there’s no excuse for authors to be uncaring and not taking three minutes to use this thing called Google.

      Your point to relax is well taken, though!

      If I seemed to possess a critical spirit or was harsh in any way, please accept my apology.

      • Avatar
        Brennan S. McPherson January 24, 2019 at 8:19 am #

        No, I know you have a gentle spirit. It was in reading the comments (and I’ve encountered this a lot from readers, people around me, etc.), that I was reminded of just how much we’re tempted to be critical in our appraisal of people’s work. Where it becomes aberrant is when we praise ourselves for our cleverness in identifying a writer’s minor failures and implying the writer was a hack. It’s just pride. We shouldn’t be proud of it. (Not saying you did that, just saying I’ve seen this a lot.)

        If I seem too flippant in dismissing criticism of research, I don’t mean to be, and agree we need to encourage each other as writers to be accurate and careful in everything.

  16. Avatar
    Sharon K Connell January 24, 2019 at 8:01 am #

    I love to do research on the areas and locales for my stories. But my question is, did you deliberately stop reading to research that hotel, or did you already know the information?

    When I’m reading fiction, I just enjoy the story. If I know a place that’s mentioned and the author includes a detail that isn’t what I remember, I just accept that he or she has exercised literary license. I don’t allow the lack or change of a fact to interrupt my enjoyment of their story.

    It’s important to me to be accurate in my own details, but when I’m a reader, I’m a reader. But maybe that’s just me.

    • Avatar
      Brennan S. McPherson January 24, 2019 at 8:03 am #

      Sharon, that’s how I read, as well. Honestly, it allows me to enjoy way more work. Being so anal about details that we put down perfectly good books is not a virtue.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 8:23 am #

      Sharon, that’s a good question. No, I did not stop reading. I finished the book. And I would not tell people to avoid the book. It’s just that the author made such a big point of choosing the chain and talking at length about it that it made it jump out. And since I’m so familiar with the chain that I would feel comfortable working there, the inaccuracies jumped out at me. Furthermore, this was SUCH an easy fact to research and then SO easy to fix. Just choose another chain that has room service! Like, duh! Or make up a hotel. That’s all.

      Believe it or not, I’m actually a big-picture person. I am just seeking to help authors.

      I hope this helps you understand my heart and spirit.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 5:02 pm #

      Agreed. Fiction is lifting us out of aspects of credibility (maybe not a lot, but some). I like to think of Jason Bourne’s complete retrograde amnesia, yet his abilities are not inhibited. At all. That is a total lack of reality however why do we accept it? It’s not acceptable in the newer fictions, I have noticed, but I recall Ludlam wrote these scenes (everything was changed a bit in the movies) but was anyone else on the edge of their seat? I WAS. Did I care that this was not just unlikely but highly improbable and not even in the realm of medical reality? No. It was pure vicarious adventure and intrigue. Oh, and the CIA? They have yet to get anything done correctly so… another obvious lack of reality.

  17. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield January 24, 2019 at 11:01 am #

    What an interesting post and thought-provoking Replies! I think my initial take on hitting a glaring “error” like the descriptions of the well-known hotel would have been exactly like yours, Tamela, but then I might have remembered Dan Brown.

    I’ve always been a bit over-the-top in striving for accuracy in settings for my fiction because that’s just fun for me, and I hadn’t thought about using creativity in the setting details as a problem until I saw the 2006 film “The DaVinci Code” then read Dan Brown’s 2003 book. I read afterward that thousands of visitors who came to see Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin, Scotland, as a result of the book/film expected to see all the details Brown put in the story because the place itself was real. They didn’t realize the details were fictionalized. Some demanded to see structures that had never existed and became upset when they were told they couldn’t! That made me realize that every author and reader doesn’t see dabbling with the details as problematic in the way I do.

    A historical fiction series I wrote started in Western NY in 1820. I used Google Earth to find a place to create a town on the Erie Canal where one has never existed–the next one west of the real town of Palmyra that was pivotal in my story. I researched everything I could possibly find about Palmyra in 1820–buildings, street names, newspapers, weather, everything, and it’s all accurate in the book. But my town of Rutherford is 100% fiction.

    I wrote another book last year and used Google Earth to find a place for a setting on Route M-35 in the Upper Peninsula of MI that is in the middle of the Hiawatha National Forest–all trees, no town. I even used Google to find a video trip on that stretch of the road to see what IS there. Such fun! Then I made up the town of Mishpeming Pine and plopped it midway between the real cities of Escanaba and Marquette on M-35.

    So my approach is to make the real things in the setting as factually accurate as possible, but avoid credibility problems by creating a completely fictional setting for the story itself. Obviously, all writers don’t think that’s necessary, but they sure give detail-lovers and tourists a hard time, don’t they? ;-D

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 2:19 pm #

      What a great response, Linda! I think your tips and ideas are great!

      I hadn’t heard of the issue with the church but I can totally see that. Tough for the church staff, indeed!

      This is a good reminder to us as readers that if we plan to visit a place that appears in a novel, we should do a Google search to get an idea of what the place is actually like before we make the journey. Granted, not every place will have a site, but many do!

      • Avatar
        Linda Riggs Mayfield January 24, 2019 at 4:13 pm #

        Thanks, Tamela! RE doing your homework before visiting a site, here’s one more really weird thing to question–the map. I’ve read that map makers put tiny intentional errors in maps to foil copyright violators. If the error shows up in a map somewhere else for which permission wasn’t granted, that’s the proof of a violation. Years ago my husband read about a vast nature refuge swamp in GA he wanted to visit. We drove all the way down there from the Midwest and got to where it was on the map–and it wasn’t there! Locals cheerfully told us how to find it about 20 miles east. Apparently we weren’t the first ones to show up in their community looking for a swamp!

  18. Avatar
    Amanda Wen January 24, 2019 at 11:04 am #

    I hardly ever use known locations, chains, or brands for precisely this reason. Besides, even if you’ve done your research and captured a real restaurant/hotel/store flawlessly, but by the time the book comes out, that business has gone under and closed?

    I have no idea how anyone researched anything before Google.

  19. Avatar
    Barbara Ellin Fox January 24, 2019 at 11:13 am #

    Hi Tamela

    Thank you for writing about mistakes. I know we all make them. If I like a story or an author’s style, I try not to be stopped by an error. But when it is the result of a lack of research, the way you mentioned, I’m disappointed. My favorite historical author included something about horses that was historically inaccurate, which made me feel as though the author didn’t care enough to get her facts straight. I haven’t read one of this author’s books in a while. It was a good lesson for me to be sure I thoroughly research even minor issues.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 2:28 pm #

      Agreed. What may seem to be a minor issue to an author may be a point of passion to many readers.

  20. Avatar
    Richard Mabry January 24, 2019 at 11:19 am #

    Interesting that you should write this. I enjoy the fiction of John Grisham, but he freely admits that he hates research. He must, because I’ve caught him in several medical mistakes that could have been avoided by five or ten minutes on Google. Nevertheless, I continue to read his work.

  21. Avatar
    Jennifer Mugrage January 24, 2019 at 11:31 am #

    This is one reason I don’t like to write stuff set in the modern world. There are so many details to get wrong, details everyone is familiar with from their everyday life.

    The way I do research is this. I am reading on a topic that interests me (usually linguistics, ethnology, or archaeology). I stumble on something that seems intriguing or suggestive, and build a story around that. When I need to build other parts of the world, I do research to make sure that whatever I make up is consistent with at least SOMEthing that has been found SOMEwhere. (With the ancient world, every single claim has its detractors.)

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 2:32 pm #

      Interesting take, Jennifer. Your method assures that readers will be able to relate to your stories! And you are so right about the ancient world. People love to debate!

  22. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 11:39 am #

    Hi Tamela and all. Great post and replies.

    I started writing about a huge, yearly conference in a state that isn’t 1000 percent pivotal to the plot yet came as a surprise to me that it no longer exists, two years later. Oh, argh. Well, I will have to make up a new fictitious one or turn it into the only conference in the United States. Happens to be the forensic training center in TN where Bill Bass began his work. Sigh.

    The amount of research is amazing and daunting for most authors. Last night spent a good 45 minutes on the steps of the Argentine Tango… gotta have that right for a dancing scene that leaves my MC very uncomfortable. Of course, every step described would be extraordinarily tedious to explain and I can see the reader zzzz (beside that, I had difficulty following along…!) So, I cut it back to a short description of twisting, turning, and a few other descriptors.

    Because my MC doesn’t recall how she obtained the ability to do an autopsy, I prove step by step how she does it and how the medical examiner presses her to tell him where she learned it. Perhaps that will be okay for those CSI types, but I may lose readers that are looking for the cozy mystery romance.

    Sometimes too much research can kill the interest as well… argh.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 2:41 pm #

      I can’t tell you how many fascinating rabbit holes I’ve been down doing research myself over the years. I even go down rabbit holes writing this blog sometimes! Who’da thunk that, huh?

      It’s good to see that you have the discipline to realize that just because you know something or have learned something that it’s not necessarily imperative that you share every factoid with readers. However, I think the fact that you are learning the details about what you’re writing about helps you be a better writer. Good job!

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 4:45 pm #

        Ha! I am still learning on what to cut and what not. Never ending process.

        I think I spend more time in research (and rewriting/slashing) than I do the actual first draft.

        Thankfully I can’t drink (acid reflux, ‘k? I don’t have issues with alcoholism, though others do) because I can surely understand Hemingway.

        I save every piece of research because it just might come in handy down the line… ‘course, have to re-research if years have passed.

  23. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 11:43 am #

    oh for crying out loud, I forgot. I rarely get ruffled when there is a possible inaccuracy. After all, even in fiction, we suspend an amount of credibility for pure entertainment. An area that I am familiar with, such as my state, I look at and think, mmmmm unrealistic. PNW writers usually get it right 🙂

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 24, 2019 at 2:46 pm #

      You are probably more relaxed than most. I’m pretty fierce about my native Virginia and a lot of people feel the same way about their home states. That said, if I’m invested in the author and story, I’ll be distressed by blatant errors but am still likely to keep trudging through the book.

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 4:52 pm #

        I am pretty tight when it comes to accents. I don’t put the accents throughout the novels, but if they’re from Vermont or Maine, it’s ayup, and if they’re from Texas it’s Yes ma’am or just yep. Or yup. Minnesota? Ja, sure, you betcha!

        Flea fart in a whirlwind, I kin hear the storm a’comin, and it’s gonna be a gullywasher. Pardon me, ma’am but I’ma headin’ to the Scooterville bar to pick me up some hooch and sit ’round like Cooter Brown.

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    Kerry Johnson January 24, 2019 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi Tamela! I hope you’re well.

    I too have been put off by small but noticeable inaccuracies in stories. Mine are often related to animals. 🙂 One general market story I read a few years ago mentioned horses, and said horses act in a certain way I was pretty sure wasn’t true. I looked it up and found I was right. Now, I’m not expert on horses, but like you said, this could have been remedied with a Google search.

    Also, I was a big fan of a fairly popular general market YA author until she introduced alternative lifestyles in her latest series (one I was so excited to read). Right away, in chapter two, there it was on the page. I was uncomfortable and disappointed and stopped reading, and may never buy another of her books.

    Take care,

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 25, 2019 at 9:12 am #

      Ugh, I hate politics in fiction most of the time. Even when I agree with the viewpoint, I’m usually reading fiction for fun and don’t need the author to tell me they agree with me.

      Reading fiction for fun? Hey, I love my job!

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 10:26 am #

        Hi Tamela

        Most of my reading life has revolved around intrigue and politics one way or another. So, it is almost impossible for me to write pure romance. OK, so it is impossible to write mush I mean, complete romance.

        It’s tough to keep commenting on how hot this guy is or whatever. Someone is in a difficult situation and stops to think how great he looks? Reality? Research! A person’s reaction to trouble is anything but not likely wow, she/he is totally cute, and those abs really are killers.

        I do weave political stuff (lightweight) stuff in one novel (it is totally realistic in my town where my fictional town is loosely based on), but not my cozy mystery/romance.

        Our romances need to cross all walks, because we don’t agree (always), and like you said, you don’t want to hear about the politics, as I can’t tolerate unrealistic ab gazing. Yes I end up inserting some of it, because it is, after all, a romance… ha ha ha

  25. Avatar
    Joey Rudder January 24, 2019 at 12:38 pm #

    I’m also a Google and Bing kind of girl when it comes to researching, but I think I’ll always love bringing books home from the library to research. Lots and lots of them. (I usually cross reference with Bing if the books are older.)

    There’s just something wonderful about sitting at a desk, a cup of coffee nearby, and learning about all sorts of things from books. I think it reminds me of being a little girl in school. Only now I can read about the things I want to read, like tiny houses and different lighting in photography (no more Algebra or Chemistry books for me!).

    And I don’t think I’ve lost faith in an author, but I remember watching my dad (who used to be a gunsmith) toss many books aside when the gun mentioned didn’t lineup with the time period or was just described all wrong. He would get so mad! I think that’s when I realized that no matter what I write, I need to be very careful. There is going to be an expert in every possible field who may pick up my book. And once I lose credibility with them, well, after watching how my dad handled it, I may never get them back.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 25, 2019 at 9:15 am #

      Years ago I read an article in a writer’s magazine where the author confessed to being a year off on a gun model (it hadn’t been invented yet, and the setting was the 1800s). Anyway, he’d been writing for the magazine for years. After that one slip, the editors returned all his stories. The wisdom of that article obviously stayed with me for many years.

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    CJ Myerly January 24, 2019 at 2:01 pm #

    I remember years ago reading a book in which the heroine was a preschool teacher. As a former preschool teacher, I can tell you that kids spend very little time coloring, but this teacher had them coloring all the time. The kids were absolutely perfect and sweet. It was jarring.

    I read a book by a familiar author who had a car seat placed in the front seat, which is illegal. It was a minor issue, and I love her books, so I just moved on.

    I do prefer when authors do their research. I check out books from the library, find articles, and even watch Youtube videos when it can help.

    • Avatar
      Maco Stewart January 24, 2019 at 2:14 pm #

      CJ, the book about the preschool teacher must have been a sci-fi/alternative-universe fantasy.

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      claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 4:35 pm #

      ha ha ha

      I would have had my heroine pulling her hair out and praying for nap time, tempted to give them all sedatives, and trying to get Johnny to stop eating glue. And more.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 25, 2019 at 9:20 am #

      Love this comment and responses!

      I do worry about the safety issues, though. I hope no hapless readers put car seats in the front seat, thinking it was okay.

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 10:30 am #

        Thank you, Lord that I am way past those child seats! Do you know that putting seats in the front, facing the front USED to be okay? Yikes! That’s how my son was transported.

        And poor us, we didn’t even grow up with seatbelts.

        God’s grace.

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Mugrage January 26, 2019 at 9:41 pm #

      That’s a shame.

      People who aren’t around small children much don’t really have any idea of how they behave. And the stuff they do, you can’t make it up, honestly.

      And actually, real little-kid behavior can be so bizarre that it would make a great plot point, not to mention testing the heroine’s mettle and showing her wonderful character.

      Even grandparents tend to forget how rowdy their own children were as preschoolers, and so they see their grandchildren’s generation as little monsters, when sometimes it’s just normal kid behavior.

      That’s my rant, anyway.

      It’s a shame because we should love, not but not sentimentalize, children. Sentimentalizing them does NOT prepare us well for taking care of them.

  27. Avatar
    Snorri Haugen January 24, 2019 at 2:02 pm #

    Spot on. Error in facts erodes author credibility and reader interest.
    I have noticed on the different ‘writer’ web sites editing seems to fall into three general categories:
    Grammar/Spelling review
    Content Critique
    Fact Check
    Personally, and I base this on recent observation of the web sphere of writers, it usually goes in the priority: Grammar, Facts, Content and I think this is a huge fail in direction. Readers (buyers?) go for the story and characters (content) first, Facts second, and grammar last.
    Just my own humble opinions. I am not upset if people disagree.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 24, 2019 at 4:39 pm #

      Copyediting and proofing are well worth the money, no matter if the return is a pittance. More likely to be picked up. Methinks. Of course, a lot of publishing houses as I have learned request more edits…

      Repeats (echoes) and tell, no show.. there are so many things.

      It bears noting that I must keep my patience since so many have been patiently over the years, assisting me in the craft.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 25, 2019 at 9:21 am #

      As an agent, I’d rather read a manuscript and throw in a few commas than to be worried about the author saying the capital of Virginia is Lynchburg.

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 10:40 am #

        Ha ha ha!!!

        I have lived in Oregon for 30 years and as I rewrote some chapters last night, it took me 15 seconds to remember where the capitol was. Shaking my head… Guess I have lived in way too many states! Wisconsin is vastly different in politics, language, capitol, farms vs. Mad City… I could write about Western and northern Wisconsin but never having been to Mad City, I could only guess..

  28. Avatar
    David Rawlings January 24, 2019 at 8:57 pm #

    Tamela, I speak for the entire nation of Australia. 😉

    We despise it when non-Aussie writers don’t research Australia, but instead rely on outdated media stereotypes.

    I’ve read books where:
    * The protagonist caught a bus from Sydney to the Outback and arrived almost straight away (that’s a half-to-full day trip. At least.) In one story, they even thought about walking.
    * Everyone speaks like Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter (even we were mostly embarrassed about the way he talked).
    * We all live in Sydney (no, that’s like saying every American lives in New York) or work on remote cattle stations (that’s like saying every American is a cowboy/cowgirl).

    I even read one story that stated owning a koala, snake or kangaroo as a pet is normal (this would be lovely, but never happens).

    That’s a few instant ways to put Aussie readers off.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 1:05 am #

      I have had similar experiences with people who want to write about rural life, the mountains, etc., but don’t have any understanding of it. It bears repeating that research is huge. My mom was raised in the south, so I got a lot of that lingo, and I grew up in Minnesota, so ‘ja, sure ya betcha’ really was part of our language, where no one knew why someone would say ”uff da fey da!” (and others) to a plate of lutefisk (secretly, because it’s an insult to say ish to lutefisk). The PNW has a different way of speaking, as does California and everywhere.

      I wouldn’t write about Boston, was only there once as a kid and then about 20 yrs ago but my brother lived there for 50 yrs, our phone conversations bubbled over. So not only do I say uff da, I add in gullywasher and don’t get your ‘knickers in a knot.’

      Like you, I get frustrated when someone writes without the research. And one’s own isms have to take a sideline.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray January 25, 2019 at 9:25 am #

      Oh my! What a hilarious comment! Though I can imagine how irritating reading those mistakes is to you. Outback Steak House is great, but shouldn’t be considered the representation of all things Australian.

      I am honored and privileged to represent Australian author Carolyn Miller. She is a delight and to my ears, her accent isn’t noticeable. I’ll have to ask her about mistakes she sees in fiction!

  29. Avatar
    Tamela Hancock Murray January 25, 2019 at 9:28 am #

    Claire, I also enjoyed your comment. You illustrate good reasons to be careful and sparing with lingo.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 10:34 am #

      I may introduce the lingo to place a character, but very sparingly sprinkle throughout. Perhaps twice.

      I read several books by a non-Christian author which really illustrated this. The MCs were from Texas, the other from New York. Only once did the fMC from New York mention she had to listen to the message twice because of the Texas twang.

      That made those works readable.

  30. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris January 25, 2019 at 10:09 am #

    This might be why I have trouble with romance novels set in a period I’ve studied.

    Often romances for romance’s sake lack the mentality of the time. If it’s a period I’ve researched a lot, yet the novel depicts attitudes more in line with today’s relationships than that period, I can’t enjoy the book.

    Attitude gaffes can jar me out of a novel much quicker than random details, because a big point of reading historical fiction is to learn from the thinking of the day.

    (Gotta love the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site, and similar sites, for old primary source newspapers!)

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 10:36 am #

      Which is why I love Jane Austen!

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Mugrage January 26, 2019 at 9:45 pm #

      I agree completely!

      I hate it when the characters dress Elizabethan or whatever, but THINK 1990s California.

  31. Avatar
    Linnea January 25, 2019 at 11:20 am #

    Research. I adore it. Probably too much. My current WIP is set in ancient Babylon and I often must allow for exaggeration or outright untruths. Scribes weren’t true historians. They wrote what they were told to write on pain of death or imprisonment, and kings on both sides of a battle generally ascribed victory to themselves. By reading a variety of accounts I can approach the facts. Maybe. I have half a dozen diagrams of Babylon to guide me in moving my characters around the old city. I’ve also amassed a large number of travel photos, military photos and the like to get a sense of the landscape, locations of palaces and temples, etc. I’ve looked at Robert Koldewey’s archeological research. As Turkey’s bazaars apparently remain virtually unchanged from ancient times, I contacted someone I met online who lives in the area and they sent me photos of specific things I have an interest in. And of course I have a number of books on Assyria and Babylonia if I need to check up on the details of daily life. Is that enough? Time will tell.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 11:29 am #


      I think if I look in the dictionary for ‘researcher,’ I will find your picture next to it. Great detail.

      I had an intrigue written long, long ago with extreme research into computers and how they could work, as well as satellites…

      I have a FB author page for romance, however I had to change the banner. I can’t put dead bodies for real on the banner, for some reason FB frowns upon that. However I put Barbie shooting Ken and well, that doesn’t speak to romance at all, perhaps why my follows, likes and comments were kinda low… !

      • Avatar
        Linnea January 25, 2019 at 5:31 pm #

        Perhaps if Ken and Barbie were standing face to face sharing a kiss, Barbie with a gun at her side a la Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you’d have had a better response. 🙂

        • Avatar
          cynthia mahoney January 26, 2019 at 3:27 pm #

          ah, I just changed it… a little noir-ish but one of my novels is a Christian noir.

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Mugrage January 26, 2019 at 9:47 pm #

      This is fabulous. That is my favorite kind of writing.

      • Avatar
        claire o'sullivan January 27, 2019 at 4:15 pm #

        Hi Jennifer

        While I enjoy the ‘regular’ modern novels, my series in one town is a morose medical examiner drinks, and was a womanizer, a recent convert. Struggling. His thought and speech pattern are very 1940 noir-ish and while his fMC love interest doesn’t pay attention to his lingo, the officers and others around him, do.

        Each obstacle is killer because his new tech tests his ability to not take advantage of her forward advances. My critique group– several thought it was weird. Others said it embraced noir. It is a comedy/crime/romance.

        One of my lines (I haven’t touched that MS for a bit for the two I am working on…): ‘I saw green eyes flash at me across the room. I always liked that in a woman. She was definitely the type of dame I used to spend time with. I slapped my inner self for thinking it. Her type was Nevada gas to me now.’ and ‘This dame was no soft kitten, she was a skirt without one and threatened to pump me full of lead, and that was the good news. The bad news was she was my partner.’

        I have had a lot of fun writing that, researching things like Chicago overcoat, juicer on nose-candy, I was still mulling over how I’d been shot…. I wasn’t about to let another twist in my life, etc.

  32. Avatar
    claire o'sullivan January 25, 2019 at 11:30 am #

    rats wish I could edit… Barbie and Ken set up as dolls in a kitchen… so FB doesn’t freak out.

  33. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 26, 2019 at 11:45 pm #

    Off-topic, but hat the hell. I’m in deep trouble, malignancies rising, and I can’t beat them back. Help…please?

    I’ve got a lump upon my chest
    that hurts with every breath.
    I’m God’s hands, it’s for the best
    but it’s got me scared to death.
    I’ve always been a hard-assed thug
    for whom fear’s been a stranger
    but now I really need a hug
    to help me hide from danger.
    I’ve always been the one who’s paid
    my way through pain, and more,
    but today I’m scared, and needing aid
    to swim to the fatal shore.
    So I ask your arms, though far away
    to help me stay afloat this day.

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 27, 2019 at 4:19 pm #

      Definitely praying for you brother. Many virtual hugs, prayers, and strength for this painful, difficult journey. I can’t imagine a molecule of your suffering, Andrew, but I am with you in prayer.

      • Avatar
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 27, 2019 at 6:07 pm #

        Claire, thank you so much. It’s an unending season of hell, but God and His Angles – and my friends – are reaching down to me.

        I have learned much in humility. I can’t do this alone; I never could.

  34. Avatar
    MJSH January 28, 2019 at 5:30 am #

    I do totally expect details to be as accurate as possible even in fiction. My husband thinks I’m being ridiculous when I get upset about inaccuracy, specifically in the medical field in which we both have knowledge, because he believes fiction is geared toward the reader and for the entertainment value, much like TV shows. The inaccuracies haven’t turned me off to an author’s writing though, if he/she writes excellent novels.

  35. Avatar
    Nick Kording January 28, 2019 at 7:13 am #

    I mind if, as you said, it jumps out at me. If it’s innocuous, maybe not – or I didn’t notice. What bothers me in being accurate is when people create scenic towns (the small towns), which feel unrealistic. A self-proclaimed city girl, I’d rather read a story which takes place in a city, but those are few and far between and so I read a lot which do not take place in major cities. However, if the small town is too cliche, other than in an actual Hallmark movie, it loses me. Everything feels forced then, from the homemade cookie store to the little coffeeshop where the person goes for her daily specialized cup of coffee this little store owner invented. I’ve read stories where these go well – but have learned from several authors, it’s because they are using actual places they’ve been too… changing the name (sometimes).

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan January 28, 2019 at 11:52 am #

      I agree! I have retired from the medical field, and there have been leaps and bounds in every aspect. So, I pump my friends for the new stuff, as well as Google…

      Same with crime. Are the police doing a good job? Since I have not been involved in a PD, I interview police.

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