An old joke among writers, and a warning to those we meet, is “Be careful what you say, I may put you in my book.” There’s even a tee shirt with that caution on it.
This weekend a few authors with Oghma Creative Media, aka Oghma Dragonwriters, gathered at Lincoln, Arkansas library for a day of fun and meeting and greeting librarians and patrons. One of the questions asked of us was do you use people you know as characters in your books?
We all chuckled, because of course we do. Dusty Richards said, “You just make sure they never recognize themselves.” Mike Miller grinned maliciously. To be used as a character in his books could mean a mass murderer, a psychological or twisted killer, so he did not reply. I had to be honest as well. “I steal names.” One of our visitors had a marvelous name, so I told her it would appear in one of my books. My secret is that I never use first and last together. Someone with the last name will appear side by side with someone with the first name, both of which I stole because I liked them so well. I never combine them with that person’s characteristics.
Dusty’s wife Pat chimed in with a good suggestion. “Steal phone books from the places you visit to research your book. Then you have names that fit the locale.” Great idea. I did that once, in a way. Angel’s Gold, which I set in Circleville, Kansas, has names in it from a phone book from my sister-in-law’s memorabilia, so I had a good treasure of names from the nineteenth century.
Speaking of keeping books true to time and place, ever watch a movie or read a book set, say during WW II and they start using slang from today? I get so angry at lazy authors who do that. I was watching a movie last night where the hero told his love that he was there for her. And he said it twice in slightly different ways. The movie was good and this didn’t make me turn it off but I certainly scoffed at those who would allow today’s jargon to appear in an historic story.
Fortunately I have a good editor plus some Beta Readers and we count on them to catch everything. I thought I had everything correct for the nightshade my heroine used to poison a bottle of wine, but one of my readers caught the inconsistency when I called it a narcotic. He is one of our authors and also knows all about that kind of stuff. Thankfully, the correction was made to the galleys. Coming Soon: A Savage Grace
It’s so important to have everything right. Once upon a time writing fiction meant you could make up everything you pleased. Not true today. All the surrounding facts must be dead on because readers are intelligent and particular. Opinions are one thing, but facts are quite another. I can write that Donald Trump is an idiot. That’s my opinion, and since he is a public figure and an idiot, I can write that. I can’t write that Donald Trump had an affair with Hillary Clinton.
Well, if I’m also an idiot and want to be a public figure, I guess I could say that. After all it’s been done over and over in the past, hasn’t it? But I’m not an idiot, I’m a writer. The two may be closely linked, for who wants to work ten hours a day, six days a week, for ten cents an hour? That’s not to say we don’t all make a mistake or two occasionally, but we can try to keep them small and inconsequential. I’m probably too picky, being a writer, but I’ll just bet that you readers have run across stuff that was incorrect. If you have, you might care to share one or two in the comments here.
Tell you what. The funniest shared mistake I’ll gift a Kindle copy of my latest mystery, #2 of The Twist of Poe Series, The Tell-Tale Stone. Wouldn’t it be even more fun if you found a mistake in that book? If you do, I’ll gift you a copy of Beyond the Moon, a love story you won’t soon forget.
Two short excerpts:
The Tell-Tale Stone
At the cabin, she ran through the dew-sprinkled grass, unlocked the door, and slipped inside. The yard light blinked once and went out, plunging the room into an intense darkness. Into the utter silence, something that sounded like a heartbeat fluttered to life. Slow at first, it sped up to match her own pulse.
Good God, what was that?
Beyond the Moon
“Know what I remember? The first thing?
“She was almost afraid to ask.
“You. I don’t remember getting out or coming home or being here. I just remember looking up one day and seeing you sitting beside me out there by the creek. The sun made your hair all shiny, brighter and more beautiful than anything I thought was left in this world. I touched it, and it felt like silk. Your skin was like satin.” He rubbed absently at her cheek. “You were making me sketch, and I didn’t know why or how we got there. But none of that mattered as long as you didn’t go away. I would have done anything you asked me to. I thought you were an angel and I’d died and gone to heaven.”