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Hi, I'm a writer of some sort

Today, during my babysitter's hours, I took my ancient laptop to a coffee shop and worked on a novel, just like a stereotypical writer. (Except I drank tea, not coffee.)

A friendly gray-haired man with a notebook, at a table near mine, remarked that I must have my own business. I said, nah, just trying to be a writer.

He asked, like everyone does, "Oh, what do you write?"

You'd think I'd have a set answer for this by now. I always stall and hedge, as if I don't actually know what I write. I eventually made it clear that I write novels, of many genres, though the one coming out soon is a ghost story.

He wanted to know what it was called. I told him, and said he'd look it up, and suggested his wife would like it too. Cool. I managed to self-promote despite myself.

Then two cops sat down at a table near both of ours, and the guy said to them, "Hey, she wrote a book called The Ghost Downstairs. Bet you guys investigate a lot of those."

They grinned. "Sure, or at least other things that go bump in the night."

I asked them if it completely bugged them when they read books or saw movies in which police procedure was all wrong--because goodness knows I don't know how to get it right.

One said, "Mostly we just wish we could really do it like that!"

The other said, "It bugs my wife more than it bugs me." Then he added, "Anyway, any form of entertainment, books or movies or what have you, require a total and willing suspension of disbelief."

So true. I feel better for not spending too much time fact-checking for my novels.

This touches upon what I mentioned in a comment to dirae the other week. Nearly all readers have two coexisting desires in mind when they read fiction (or even nonfiction): 1) the desire to know the true facts regarding whatever the subject matter is, and 2) the desire to read a great story, even if it fudges the facts. But for most people, one of the sides outweighs the other. Responsible scholars are devotees of type 1. Fiction writers, or at least definitely me, are of type 2. I see a cool article about some historical or scientific discovery, and I think, "Hmm, interesting. But how could I change and embellish it and make it more interesting for a story?" It's the escapist in me, I suppose.

Unrelated photo posting:

I like how this photo of Zach turned out, from last night. If you look closely, you can see my reflection in the window, taking the picture. (He likes to watch the streetlights come on, an activity that becomes more and more possible the farther we get from the summer solstice.)


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
As a reader who appreciates a good story, I still appreciate details that make that story more "real." I know that some minutia is so difficult to research and to get right that it probably isn't worth the research time, but to at least get some of it correct gives a better setting. You know, in my opinion, worth exactly as much as you paid for it. ;)
Jul. 17th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)
I admit I like to learn something when I read fiction too, as long as it doesn't feel like a textbook. I do try to get details right when they're easy to verify. It's the complicated cases that give me a headache--and which perhaps I'll worry about less now. :)
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 17th, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
I assume the book/film double standard is only because you figure film writers aren't as smart as book writers. ;) (Otherwise you're just making book writers' lives harder.)

It *is* annoying when they get easily verifiable details wrong, of course, and I'm not talking about those. I mean the more complicated cases, which perhaps I'll stop stressing so much about, now that I've heard those cops' take on things.
Jul. 15th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
Ideally, it would be nice to have both factual accuracy AND a good story, but if I can only have one, I'd rather have a good story with reasonable accuracy.

Some novels just read like a research project. "Look at me, dear reader! I can tell you everything you've ever wanted to know about an AK-47!" Well, that's great, but as a reader, you know what I need to know? That's it's a gun, and it's powerful. Move on to the story! :)

Jul. 17th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
"Good story with reasonable accuracy" is usually what I aim for in writing, and in reading too. Yeah, you don't ever want that "info dump" effect. Here you go, twenty pages on the political structure of a small country!
Jul. 15th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
What a darling boy that Zach is! :-)
Jul. 17th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! We think so. :)
Jul. 16th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
"Justified true belief" or some variant of that sequence; it's the how and style of justification that does it for those of us in Type 1 mode.

When we're in Type 2, almost anything will do as long as we are there, in the moment of the story.

Jul. 17th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
Re: Knowldege
Indeed--as long as we're consistent about the rules the story sets forth, usually we can get away with almost anything. Readers actually *want* to suspend their disbelief; you just have to not get in their way of doing so. :)
Jul. 16th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
Heh, that's a fun conversation with the guy and the cops.

I never know what to tell people I write, either.

Jul. 17th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
I should print up my answer on business cards and get one out to read aloud from, when people ask. Just, you know, to prompt my memory. :)
Jul. 17th, 2008 10:48 am (UTC)
Zach is precious. He has such wonderful eyes! Is he talking your ear off now?
Jul. 20th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, he's a pretty boy all right. He talks, and sings, and sometimes even makes sense. Really cool, from a linguist point of view, to hear his speech develop.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )