Friday, October 5, 2007

Things that drive me nuts!

Jessica at Bookends had an interesting post on typos and errors after publication that actually caused me to de-lurk and post. My post wasn’t exactly on the topic but it was directly related. The post concerned who was responsible for the typos and errors in the finished book. If the typos and spelling aren’t overwhelming I can handle them in small doses, but factual errors in a book drive me crazy. Here was my comment:

The factual errors are more irritating to me. I live in Seattle and for some reason many authors (and TV shows) base their stories here. We have traffic problems and are surrounded by water. We also have well known landmarks that haven’t moved since they were constructed. However authors have people who live on the peninsula leaving home and arriving in Seattle in 15 minutes. That’s only possible with a helicopter. They have them living on Queen Anne and driving across one of the Lake Washington bridges to arrive at a job or appointment near the Space Needle. The Space Needle is at the bottom of Queen Anne hill. It’s about a 5 minute drive – no bridges required. It’s obvious the author doesn’t know the city.

If they want to write about a specific, well known place, they should thoroughly research it – perhaps even travel there. I’ve stopped reading in the middle of some books because they were so inaccurate. If they don’t want to do the research it would be better to just make up a city.

Why do people do this? Why do they write about places where millions of people live and visit every year and make up facts about them? Do they really think no one will notice? The internet is full of information about almost every place on Earth. Why can’t they spend a couple of hours looking at maps, reading some local newspapers, reading tourist info from the Chamber of Commerce or even asking friends who live there or have been there for information? If they don’t want to take the time to get their facts correct, why don’t they just make up a city or town or country? It would be more believable and far less irritating.

Am I nuts, or does this drive you crazy too?


Ello said...

Drives me absolutely bonkers! But I am also a research nut so I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to spend hours and hours researching random stuff like why is toe cheese called toe cheese? Or why do farts smell like eggs? You know, important stuff!

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm a research nut too. If the writer gets significant geographical facts wrong I drop the book.

By that time, though, it's already been bought.

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Anti Wife,

I haven't so much noticed factual errors in geography, but I do notice when the author doesn't capture the feel of a place, if that makes sense.

On the flip side of this, my novel takes place in Chicago, largely in Berwyn Illinois - I grew up in Cicero, which is right next door... I've had a real struggle with what to include and not include. For instance, I didn't want to give any real addresses, so the addresses used don't exist (I have the blocks picked out, but made the address too high for the amount of houses on the street or odd numbers that were, for some reason skipped) Then, I wondered about including the real names of businesses - they're in my rough draft but obviously I can't put in the real people who work in the shops or own them (though anyone from here relates the business with it's owner...) so it gets a little tricky because there's a fine balance between the fact in fiction and the out and out creation. Especially when you're breathing life into your setting, because so much of the setting really is the people who inhabit it.

The Anti-Wife said...

Ello and Stephen,
We must be triplets!

If you're going to change stuff about a real city, just make up a new city. If you use a real city with made up stuff, you'll have people like Ello, Stephen and me throwing your book against the wall out of frustration. Breathe your life into a fictitious city. It can still be a suburb of Chicago - just a made up one.

Bernita said...

I can't write about a place unless I have map of some sort, either in my mind or downloaded.
I think the irritation key is "significant landmarks," though. Some real cities are so big that even residents are unfamiliar with various suburb or "towns" within it.
Funny thing about the time/distance factor. I live outside a city - but I can arrive at the main hospital in less time than someone living within the city limits and with half the travelling distance.