Monday, June 22, 2015

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is... Getting It All Wrong

I know many of you long for the freedom (uh... nope), ease (yeah, right), and wealth (hahahaha) of all writers everywhere, and think the life of said writer is one long session of retiring to our garrets, drinking copious amounts of coffee and other caffeine-laden drinks, staring out the window at the scenery beyond, and making things up. Let me set you straight.

Aside from that freedom, ease, and wealth baloney, you're... absolutely right! That's exactly what we do. It's not so cut and dry for the non-fiction writers among us, of course, but for those of us writing fiction, it's just that simple.

Or is it? Let me explain.


This is not, I repeat not what the window looks
like in my garret. It is pretty, though, isn't it?
It's actually the window in a church
in Maine near Acadia National Park. 
Yes, we retire to our "garret," which in most cases is not up a long, winding, stone stairway to a tiny room at the top of a tall tower with a window that faces the east when we want to see a sunrise and the west when we want to watch a sunset (it's a magic window), but rather anyplace we can find to plunk down our computer. It might be one of those fancy "office garrets,' or a simpler "couch garret." It might be a comfortable "bed garret," or an uncomfortable "bathroom garret." Of course, there are the ever-popular "Starbucks" and "Barnes and Noble" garrets where you'll find several writers using the same garret you are. (Have I used the word "garret" enough, or would you like me to expound on that topic a bit longer? No? Okay.)

Moving on. Yes, we often drink coffee. Or tea. Or wine. That's why Starbucks and Barnes and Noble are so popular for writing. However, taking your computer to a wine-tasting event is often frowned upon, and you have to keep moving around to different wine stores because they won't let you come in a second time, but at least the drinks are free.

And we do stare out the window, unless we're in the bathroom and have to stand on the edge of the bathtub to look out one of those skinny, rectangular, frosted windows and find out we can't see anything anyway, so we might as well not try because sure as shootin', we'll break a leg trying.

Lastly, we do make things up. To a point. Our imaginations are our best friends during our writing sessions, but even making things up requires diligence and hard work lest we screw things up. I once attributed the quote, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," to Winston Churchill, and was chastised (none too gently, I might add) and told it was actually Franklin Delano Roosevelt who used those stirring words. Using the wrong colloquialisms for the period is another problem historical book writers have to worry about. For instance, having your knight from the Crusades saying, "Hot dang, that was close!" isn't going to cut it. Even readers with little or no knowledge of ancient languages know that knights would more likely have said, "Hot dangeth, that was nearbyeth!"

In short, writers of any genre--with the exception of speculative or science fiction--have to stay true to the period, geography, language, dress, and historical events that were/are indicative of the location and period we're writing about. We don't want to jar our readers with a glaring inaccuracy... like a wrongly-attributed famous quote, for instance (not that I would know anything about that). We strive to make our job of making things up a pleasure for our readers no matter what or where we've placed our characters.

We just don't plunk them into the bathroom at a wine-tasting event.

Until the next time...


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