Tuesday, January 22, 2008


OR: Write what you know...

74 degrees 8:18 pm
So we found this picture in an ad for charts in a boating magazine. The title of the ad was: THINK YOU DON'T NEED ACCURATE CHARTS? JUST WAIT UNTIL YOUR ELECTRONICS FAIL.
And Gordon said you'd have bigger problems than charts, if you were sailing this boat.
Looks ok?
Well maybe research really does work the same as knowing exactly how something works in fiction.
Writers have to be really really careful.
So why does this ad make me think that the advertiser knows nothing about sailing.
Supply your conjectures.
There's more than one reason...
Now I'm not saying a writer actually has to fly a plane. Go up in space. Fight an alien. Ride a horse or sail a boat to write about them.
A writer just has to have a great imagination and preselect their beta readers who have expertise.
But when readers like me read a book and it's about scuba diving and the author doesn't mention the bubbles stream upward to the surface- in fact they describe glistening orbs gently following the diver underwater. Or maybe their book is about a medical laboratory in a hospital and they have their lab techs work directly with blood, without gloves and face shields or maybe they are writing about an architect and have him design a multimillion dollar building on a napkin in a restaurant instead of using CAD.
Whatever the mistake I believe readers will search it out and find it.
It's not that a writer has to have direct experience it's just that we have to fool the reader so they think we do.
What's wrong with this picture?


Kim Stagliano said...

There's no deck boy in tight shorts bringing me a Cosmo?

You're right, Pat. Details matter. And readers will pick up on mistakes faster than Simon Cowell can hear a bad note. That affects your cred as a writer. You were so true to Perry that you made him real. John Robison was really helpful to me on this topic. His keen Aspie mind saw through some of the holes in my story - now all sewn up like a proper canvas sail.

Holly Kennedy said...

Accuracy counts.
ie., in my upcoming novel I stumbled across a character telling her daughter a yellow field is FLAX when in reality it should be CANOLA. I caught it and begged the copy editors to change my error. Sure hope they did or I'll look like a fool.

P.S. I like the napkin/CAD comparison!

Anonymous said...

All boats I've been on rig their jib to be raised from the front of the boat and the mainsail aft. Also, never seen a boat with a spreader at the very top of the mast. Allowing your jib to have a spreader in front of it is very, very bad. Ken says it must be a French boat ...


ORION said...

Good job peggy!!! anyone else?
Kim- I have John (and others) read ARCs of LOTTERY before it came out for that reason. Authenticity.
And Holly- us city folk won't even blink an eye LOL

Janet said...

Is it just me, or is the sail too tall for the boat? (I am horrifically ignorant of sailing realities, so just laugh quietly if I'm wrong.)

And don't look now. You have been tagged.


If you break the chain, nothing whatsoever will happen to you. You have been warned.

ORION said...

Too late janet!!!!! I did that one on December 20!!!!
hahahahahahahaha (*silent laugh* ...sail too tall...*) ahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahha

Manic Mom said...

I have a feeling the sail is in the wrong direction?

and I didn't look at the comments before I posted.

ORION said...

yeah manic...that's one...

Janet said...

That was a month ago, Pat! My memory doesn't stretch that far back. And in the pre-Christmas rush, it's possible I missed it. *sigh* Oh well, thanks anyway.

I told you I didn't know anything about sailing. I saw the thing with the masts, but didn't have the vocabulary to express it. I would love to have a sailboat though someday; going out on the water always makes me so happy.

Chumplet said...

The fact that I can't see anybody on deck kinda makes me nervous.

I got hockey enthusiasts to read Bad Ice, and got good feedback.

ORION said...

Good call chumplet -- often we set the sails and auto pilot- but there should still be some body on watch...

Ric said...

I'm not particularly fond of boats or being on the water, but the sails appear to be full and the boat is not moving - no waves, no action. That wouldn't be right, would it?

gotta love photoshop

Anonymous said...

the front/bottom part of the sail looks like it's attached to the rail of the boat... or something. How odd!! I don't sail. My cousin does. But he's taken me out on a lake in a teensy sailboat. I do know from that experience that the sail has to move. I don't see that bottom horizontal pole... you know, the one that we had to duck when he told us to (...i don't remember the official "move yourself" command! haha)~~ dawn, the anonymous.

ORION said...

ask me how I know...

Anonymous said...

okay... how do you know???? (i can guess, i was afraid it would happen to me!) Is "tack" the word that means "duck and go to the other side" ?

someday... i'll sail. And someday i'll write something other than comments in blogs!! ;)

dawn anon

Dave F. said...

Even before the download finishes I can see that the sails are all wrong. It's a photoshopped image

(I came here after EE and Church Lady's fete')

A Novel Woman said...

Well, I'm no sailor, but the sails look like they're on backwards. And that they've been Photoshopped. Badly.

Also, I don't see anyone leaning over the bow shouting "I'm king of the world" in a cracked boy/man voice.

And, there are no dolphins leaping in joyful arcs.

Or swaggering pirates.

Am I forgetting anything?

Bernita said...

My "messing about with boats" is restricted to a canoe, but even I can see the sails shouldn't be tied that way, unless they want to capsize.