Saturday, February 12, 2011

Research and Rum Running

Rhys Bowen, featured author at the Love is Murder convention last week, said, “You have to get the details right, because everybody can check. One little wrong fact bursts the bubble and negates the rest of the book.”
            Larry and I have been researching as needed as we work along. Can a gun shoot underwater? What kind of gun? Can a man live with a bullet in his head without immediate attention? How long? How far and wide spread was rum running during prohibition? Is it reasonable that there might be a tunnel underneath a century-old farmhouse?
            Then Thursday night at our critique group, somebody pointed to their printout of our chapter and asked, “Does Illiopolis have a Sherriff?”
            With all inherent cleverness, I replied,  “Um. I don’t know. Larry?” and threw him under the bus.
            We have quite a long section that stretches between chapters 31 and 32 with a Sherriff who may not exist.
            Is that a problem? Not necessarily, depending on the novel and if the readers expect us to take liberties with locations. In this case, we’ve been pretty careful keeping the details of Decatur and the surrounding area accurate, so liberties are disallowed.
I mean, it seemed reasonable that there would be an Illiopolis Sherriff, and it didn’t occur to me to question that.
            Which makes me now wonder, what else have I taken for granted as common knowledge that is common only in Becky’s Little Universe? The rest of the world would roll its eyes, “No, Illiopolis doesn’t have a Sherriff!”
            All I can say is thank goodness for our critique group and thank goodness for spell check. Apparently I can’t spell Sherriff.
            The solution? The group suggested we don’t even need that particular character, and that the interplay between the three officers at the scene slowed the pacing--so much so that one of the members asked, “Does it pick back up next chapter?”
            You can’t get a novel perfect in the first draft--at least we can’t. So we’ve got work to do. And research to do. And rewriting to do. But that’s to be expected.
            Google, here I come!

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