Not what you would expect

Originally posted 25.01.12

Two things got me thinking this week. The first was when I went for a sports massage to sort my back out. My previous experiences with massages have been of the relaxing kind and this is how I would describe them in my writing. My eyes are now open. Friday and Saturday were spent with ice packs on my shoulders while gulping down ibruprofen and codeine tablets. Don’t get me wrong, my movement is now much better. I just wasn’t expecting the brutalisation. The searing pain throughout my back and the nightmares of being attacked by women in white gowns.

The second was when I was reading a free novel on my Kindle and the author described two characters going to play nine ball pool. They had a discussion about their respective love lives and then one said ‘I can’t remember if I’m stripes or spots?’ The author here had confused the rules of nine ball and eight ball, easily done if you are not familiar with both games.

I wonder though how many errors like this I have made by assuming I don’t need to research something because I already know the details. How much information is enough? How do we validate our knowledge and how much poetic license is acceptable? Describing a massage as relaxing would not be wrong, describing a sports massage, maybe? I have only had one, it could easily be the injuries I was suffering from caused the pain and the next will be wonderfully relaxing? Likewise, asking whether you are spots or stripes would have been fine if the author had said the characters were playing pool rather than nine ball. To many, the mistake would not have been noticed and it doesn’t affect the story or plot at all even if you do.

I hate using poetic license in my writing. If something is wrong then I can’t bring myself to write it down even if it helps the plot. I have abandoned countless pieces due to either finding out the premise to be flawed or a resolution of the events to obvious to ignore. This said, I enjoy slasher films that require serious suspension of disbelief. Seriously, stop splitting up into groups, sit in a circle so you can’t be sneaked up on. Arm yourself with anything to hand and use one of your mobile phones to ring for help and wait it out. The problem is that this doesn’t make for a good story. This is something I am going to have to come to terms with I think to improve my writing. It is my world I’m creating and, as long as I am not breaking too large rules which break the spell for my reader, my pernicketiness will have to be reigned in.

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