Monday, October 4, 2010

Random Things

Book II - in the homestretch. Lead in for the BIG CLIMAX was written this weekend. This week I'll write the climax chapter, and then wrap things up. I should end up around 50K words. Woo-hoo.

Book I - revisions should start this weekend. Well, maybe not until the following weekend since I'm waiting for input from beta readers before I dig too deep into revisions.

Authenticity - okay, I live in the Nashville area. No big secret. So, I know a bit about the city, local haunts and dives . . . how people talk. Yeah, just a few minor things. Everybody in the south doesn't constantly say y'all. There are educated people in the south. We also don't always say you'uns (this is basically y'all but in a different context) or fixin' (as in I'm fixin' to go to the bar with my friends) and not fixings (which is the side dishes at dinner). I've also rarely heard people say Well, he's itchin' like a hounddog with fleas.

Sorry, those are stereotypes more fit for television than real life . . . not that some people might say those things.

My point - still in Authenticity for those trying to keep up with my randomness (ha): if writing about the south, don't play into stereotypes. Learn a bit about the location, especially if you're not a native, and make it true to the area, rather than true to your perception of the area. You never know, someone who lives in Nashville might read your book set in Nashville and might get a bit ticked at the dumbing down portrayal.

Yes, I'm reading a book set in Nashville that is so stereotypical it's not even funny. The writer is from New York. I don't have a clue whether the writer has ever been to Nashville. At this point, four chapters in, nothing is coming across as authentic and . . . I've lived here 18 years.

Now, in the writer's defense - the main character is a transplant, so some of the non-authentic stuff could - in an odd way - make sense. Then again, maybe not.

I set the majority of my stories in Nashville for a reason: I know the area, the backroads, the slang, the places people hang out, the subdivisions, where the wealthy live, and some historical info as well. If in doubt, I get in my car and drive around to make sure I'm being authentic.

To me, to do otherwise is, well, just wrong.

Yes, I probably shouldn't bash - not that I'm technically bashing - another writer's work. The writing is good. I like the book. I'm just sort of pulled out of the reading by the less than authentic vibe that keeps coming across time and again.

I think, in the end, my goal as a writer is to keep my readers immersed in my writing. I don't want moments that make them stop reading, shake their heads, and go WTH?? I want uninterrupted reading for my readers . . . and my self.

So, if writing about an unfamiliar location (i.e., you're from Nashville trying to write about Chicago and have never been), do some research, take a trip, explore the town, listen to how people talk, look at how people dress - the locals, not the tourists wearing their cowboy boots (little known fact: more tourists than actual residents wear cowboy boots in Nashville) - and so on and so on. Don't play into stereotypes that aren't the norm. Yeah, we talk a bit funny in the south . . . but have you ever been to New England! Ha! Oh, I have and have friends in New England.



Huntress said...

I have downloaded martial arts contests, fencing events, and a cool scene from a Jackie Chan movie.

All this so I could slow-mo the action and get a feel for the play between the opponents.

Not a substitute for the real thing, but I took defensive training and that helped to envision the moves as well.

Las Vegas Writer said...

Completely agree with this post. I get so worried I'm NOT going to portray a location, a career, etc. that I spend hours researching as much as I can before I even write the section that needs the information.

Scott said...

Huntress – while it’s not a substitute for the real thing, it’s enough to give you, and I’m sure your readers, the sense they need. In the end, we want our readers immersed in our writing and not pulled out of it by something that doesn’t ring true. I’m sure for most readers, they believe the stereotypes and would just keep on reading. As someone who lives in the city . . .

Las Vegas Writer – thanks. One of the things the author did was write a line that said “. . . on the eleven o’clock news”. First – we don’t have eleven o’clock news in Nashville. We have nine and ten, no eleven. Now, I understand the character was from New York, and they have eleven o’clock news in New York. But . . . the character had been in Nashville for three months, so . . . she should have known nothing was going to show up on the eleven o’clock news. Yes, I know a bit petty, but still . . . realism is important. Most readers wouldn’t know the difference. I, on the other hand do, and I picked the book specifically because the setting was Nashville.

We, as writers, need to get it right!