Tag s | Research

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?

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Researching Your Historical Novel

Angela Breidenbach is a bestselling author of fiction through the ages with most of her books set in Montana. She’s the host of Lit Up! on TogiNet.com and iTunes about great entertainment from books to movies. Visit Angela and her fe-lion personal assistant, Muse, posting comedic conversations with his Writer …

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Fake News and the Christian Author

Most book authors do not work their way up through the ranks beginning with a college degree in journalism. Because of this, many have no exposure to the best practices of career writers and journalists. Sure, book authors might be very creative, insightful and able to recite large sections of …

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Details, Details (Do They Matter?)

I was chatting with a reader the other day who told me about an advertisement she’d received about a new book. She said, “I read the sample, but then the author said that Black-eyed Susans bloomed in May, but they don’t bloom until August. I didn’t buy the book.” “Did you …

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Bad Research

After many years in another industry, a corporate CEO left to lead a large publishing company. After a month or so on the job, he grew unsettled at how different publishing was from the consumer product industry he was familiar with, especially the highly “intuitive” approach publishing utilized to make …

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Watching History

Over the holidays, my husband and I viewed an epic series about the life of St. Teresa de Jesus, filmed in Spanish, though English subtitles were provided. For eight hours, we were taken back to the 1500s in Spain. As a writer of historical novels, I’ve researched many eras. However, …

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Is Your Novel Historical or Whimsy?

As a proud native Virginian, I find it painful to read about the possibility that our early settlers may have practiced cannibalism when my state was but a mere colony. If you have been following the story, you have seen that much of the media presents conjecture as fact but at this point whether or not they resorted to cannibalism during the starving season is speculation. Speculation or not, the idea makes me shudder.

The Gallant Sir Walter Raleigh

My third grade Virginia History book opened with the story of how the gallant Sir Walter Raleigh placed his cloak on the mud for Queen Elizabeth I so that Her Majesty’s feet would not have to touch the ground. Then, as far as I can remember, we moved on to the House of Burgesses, the heroic Pocahantas (not the Disney version), and the founding of the College of William and Mary (not necessarily in that order). I’m sure they mentioned the colony’s hard times. An eternal optimist, I like to focus on success so those facts didn’t stick as well with me. Of course, we were told a few more brutal tidbits during high school, but still, according to my memory, the accounts were coated with frothy icing.

But Surely Everyone Was Rich!

As a teenager, I used to imagine myself as a heroine in an historical novel as being among the rich women who wore pretty dresses and drank tea all day. A more realistic scenario is that I would have been wearing simple clothing while toiling with my husband to eke out a living from the Virginia soil. Perhaps like my great-grandmother, I would have given birth to seven boys.

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Historical Prices – Research Tip

by Steve Laube

I made $1.80 an hour stuffing envelopes for my first job with a paycheck. I thought I was rich. For a teenager in those days I was because in today’s money I would have been making nearly $10 per hour!

When writing a novel or referring to days gone by it is helpful to put things in perspective by doing a little research. First find out what that item cost in that year. I did a quick search for “gas prices in 1962 and found the answer in seconds.” Then go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website for an inflation calculator. Here is the address: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl. This site calculates the average Consumer Price Index for a given calendar year using the  rate of inflation and other economic factors and enables you to compare wages, prices, and other various things. This index value has been calculated every year since 1913.

A couple examples:

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News You Can Use – July 31, 2012

#1 Secret of Great Writers – Joseph Putnam reveals a secret that everyone should know.

Great Keynote Speech from RWA – Stephanie Laurie graciously posted her rousing keynote presentation on the business of writing. (Thank you Debby Mayne for the link!)

21 Links to Fonts for Self-Publishing – On of the biggest mistakes I see in self published books is the use of the wrong font. This incredible resource from The Book Designer blog will give you a crash course on what works and what doesn’t if you are attempting to create your own print book. Even if you aren’t self-publishing this type of “course” will give you a greater appreciation for the “art of book-making.”

The E-Book Marketplace is About to Change … Dramatically – Mike Shatzkin details the implications of the Department of Justice proposed settlement with some big publishers regarding the accusation of price-fixing online.

The Shakespearean Guide to Entrepreneurship – a clever post about how Shakespeare transformed himself from an als0-ran writer to “The Bard.”

How I Did Research for Three NY Times Bestsellers – Ryan Holiday talks about his secrets to doing great research.

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