9.02.2005

Anachronisms

A sharp eyed Snarkling noted (from a snarkometer page)


Here's a question...The Chrysler Sebring wasn't introduced until 1995, and the convertible wasn't available until 2001. I had to look up the exact years, but I knew it was off when I first read it. Does stuff like that matter, or will most people just ignore it (i.e. am I just a weirdo)?


you are NOT a weirdo because I notice it too, and Miss Snark is NOT a weirdo.

I detest anachronisms. They suck you right out of the narrative and make you dash to the OED or google to verify things.

There's a post way way down the archives about fact checking. I think I mentioned then that Ann Rule got names wrong in one of her books...easy to verify names. April Sinclair's Coffee Will Make You Black, an otherwise wonderful book, is rife with anachronisms.

There's an entire sub-category for movies: the continuity checkers. People write websites about "mistakes" like Brad Pitt eating shrimp from a plate in Oceans Eleven, and the next shot shows him eating from a silver bowl.

People notice. Nothing gets you more outraged letters than getting Civil War stuff wrong too.

Your job as a writer is to get it right.

20 comments:

Christa M. Miller said...

And with the Internet, we REALLY have no excuse for not finding info...

I think many people also (esp. with fiction) think they can rely on copyeditors and factcheckers to find this stuff, but they're human and miss things too - or they may be nonexistent. As a freelancer just starting out, I found an error in an about-to-be-published article. I figured "No big deal, the factchecker will get it" - only to see the error there in hard print when the story came out. It didn't take long for me to figure out that the market, a smallish trade magazine, had no budget for such niceties as factcheckers. I was it.

MadScientistMatt said...

Huh? Sebring convertables came out in 1996, one year after the coupe. It was the sedan that came along later.

You bet people nitpick. :)

Douglas Hoffman said...

One of the advantages of writing SF or fantasy is that the author is almost off the hook. Almost, because slipping up is still quite possible. I was dumb enough to put a golf joke into my NiP. I know nothing about golf. Sure enough, I got it wrong.

Carolyn said...

Dear Miss Snark,

New topic:

I'm in several writing list servs and someone is always reporting that this or that agent will only look at your stuff if you met her at a writing conference.

How important is it to attend writing conferences?

Shouldn't I be at home writing and sending queries?

Thanks in advance for your wisdom.

Christine said...

Ooo, I hate that stuff too. The last book I finished and sent out is fantasy, but...well, anyway, I literally scoured the internet for a map of the Parthenon. I wanted to get it right. The 9-12 yo's I write for might not give a flying fig that it's right, but I DO.

LOL

Gina Black said...

Carolyn--

I (of course) am not the venerable Miss Snark, but as a writer who has attended conferences, I can tell you that they are very, very important because that is where you get to meet the agents and editors. What's the point of sending a query to an agent who you later discover you have absolutely no rapport with? I can't imagine entertaining the thought of working that closely--in fact entrusting my career--with a person I've never even met. Except, of course, for our venerable Miss Snark. But we have met her here, through her blog. ;)

melly said...

I might not be very popular here because of what I'm about to say, but why does it matter so much? I can understand wrong little details can be annoying, but isn't the point of writing fiction is to write fiction?
If I take Dan Brown and his Da-Vinci Code for example, he got so many things, facts, wrong, but who cared/cares? It's fiction after all.
Please don't "kill" me with your comments. I personally don't pay attention to "wrong" little details and I genuinely want to understand from those who do.

Christa M. Miller said...

I'm just guessing, but doesn't it kind of work the other way too? You might come to a conference, hit it off great with an agent, then find out s/he really doesn't care for your writing style or subject matter.

I personally don't have a choice in staying home. I just don't have the extra cash to go spending for conference fees and room and board. I figure I'll take it one step at a time, that I'll find out whether we hit it off via phone and email (you know, the little things - sense of humor, instincts about the story, etc.) and save an in-person visit for when it really counts.

Maybe it's naive as heck, but in that case I'd love to find out what options exist for finding that rapport when you don't have much cash.

Bernita said...

Why piss off a bunch of readers - which number might not be as miniscule as you might think - by being careless/lazy/ignorant about certain details? Such readers may feel their intelligence has been insulted. Even worse, they are inclined to insult yours.
Obscure fact, not much of a problem. But something obvious like dressing a 10th century hero in plate mail will have a whole raft of readers down on you. Further, they might never buy anything you write again.

kitty said...

If the story is really good, riveting, I'm not bothered *much* by a misspelled word or an insignificant error (as in not pertinent to the story). I only nitpick when the story doesn't carry me.

Anonymous said...

This discussion is interesting to me as I just finished reading an Ellis Peters mystery (medieval setting with monk 'detective'). I'm glad I was only looking for light reading, because otherwise the errors would have really driven me nuts. Not so much errors of fact. Just that Peters writes as if they have NO CLUE about the prevailing mindsets in medieval Britain. The book repeatedly has modern attitudes and beliefs forcibly transplanted into the setting, and how they jarred. Quite apart from the fact that up until page 48 it's all backstory and exposition...

Carter said...

Speaking of Civil War errors...

My all-time favorite author SNAFU was in a romance novel my wife was reading some years back (and I can't remember the title, damn it!) in which the character went down to the harbor in Atlanta to watch the ships come in. Just look at a map, FGS!

randy said...

I'm neither careless, lazy, nor ignorant. I honestly thought I had checked the Sebring convertible issue--probably made the error because in the original version, my heroine had more money so she had a later model car; Do I think details are significant? Yes, especially when they're in the opening sentence of my book, so I'm appalled at my own mistake. And, while there's no excuse for making a factual error, I wouldn't necessarily rely on the Internet for all my research, either.

Miss Snark said...

If one relied on the internet for all one's information, one might believe Miss Snark is a gin swilling, cranky, Clooneyiac. Oh wait. What I meant to say was, you might think Miss Snark was .....no, not that either. Gee...maybe I am the sum total of my pixels.

Bernita said...

randy, my comment was not directed at you, but at the "who cares" attitude.

ms. folly said...

Bernita, perhaps you should think through what you are posting before you post it. It is simply rude/mean/petty/spiteful to point a finger at a writer and say they are "being careless/lazy/ignorant about certain details?". Are you saying you have never made a mistake or error? Did you post your first page to be ripped apart? If so, which one was it? Is every fact in your manuscript accurate? Maybe you should double check it. You might find that you are human too.

Bernita said...

When I make an anchronistic mistake, and I cheerfully admit I have, I do worse than call myself careless. I call myself stupid.

Bernita said...

And sometimes I can't spell, either.

Kelly said...

Speaking of Ellis Peters, I'm a medieval enthusiast myself and write novels set in the 12th and 13th centuries. While I get only a little bent out of shape if a writer puts buttonholes on the clothing in "my" period, I get really mad when modern characters are dressed in costumed and plunked down in a castle. That's the most irresponsible anachronism of all.

Amy said...

An alert friend of mine noticed that in a Jack Chalker book she was reading, he insisted that a SUB-LIGHT ship amazingly traversed a third-of-a-lightyear distance in just FOUR DAYS! I told her to submit it for the Purple Prose readings at Denver's Mile Hi Con! LOL