Headed in the Right Direction?
I was recently reading a novel that takes place partly in Southern California and was put off a bit by a couple of what I, as a native of the region, would consider mistakes. Well, through the magic of the Internet, I was able to contact the author, who shared with me his research of the area and that any issues I might have considered mistakes might be chalked up to artistic license. The reply was quite unexpected considering the fact we met once for a few moments more than a decade ago when he signed one of his books for me.
The more I have thought about this response, the more I can see the validity of his argument. I make a big deal about the geography in my work, but I most often write about fictional places based on real-life locations, so I can bend all kinds of rules. For those who write about real places, we are taking their word for it that they have done the requisite research. The challenge is that it becomes very easy to expect writers to tell great stories and get all the details right according to our exacting standards.
I remember watching episodes of 24 when the series was based in Los Angeles and complaining the characters were getting from one part of the city to another way too quickly. Perhaps considering the fact that the fast-paced nature of the series required a little suspension of reality, I probably should give Jack Bauer a bit of a break, because at least one day a year, he did not eat, sleep or, as far as I could tell, ever use the bathroom.
And, while authors often churn out 1-2 books a year, it is rather unfair for someone who is writing his fourth manuscript in 17 years this summer to judge a person who has to make a living by meeting tight deadlines. I know that some of my reporting as a journalist was at the surface level because I was up against a 5 p.m. deadline every day, so I suppose I should extend a bit of grace to others who do what they need to in order to meet the needs of their agents, editors, publishers and adoring readers.
I suppose it all goes back to the first rule of writing: never let anything get in the way of telling a good story.
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.