There are a lot of books out there. And many of those books cover common things: mystery, crime,
SF, fantasy, romance, etc. It’s a wonder that some authors rise to the top and
the vast majority live in middle.
When I come up with story ideas and work through them,
I spend time at the outset thinking about them, writing ideas, and wondering if
they are deserving of my time *before I start writing*. It’s a limited
resource, you know. Often, I will consign an idea to my mental dust bin since I
don’t *think* that it’ll stand out amid the sea of books that flood the
Is that wrong? Should I actually put for some time
actually writing prose rather than merely discarding an idea before it has a
chance to take shape? What do y’all do?
I have read woefully few Bradbury stories, so I am
not the best judge of his works. In the days since his death, I have been
reading a bunch of memorials and have cracked open my copy of Dandelion Wine
and Zen in the Art of Writing. Fellow readers of DSD know that I have a
penchant for nostalgia and history. So imagine my happy surprise when many of
the remembrances focused on Bradbury’s own nostalgic writings. It’s nice to
know that a few of my thoughts were shared by one of the greatest writers of
the 20th Century.
Louis L’amour's Place on the Bookshelf
Seeing all the writing about Bradbury made me
remember the day, last year, when I went to four estate sales. The historian
part of me drooled (and sweated a lot) at the treasure trove of magazines in
one garage: Life, Saturday Evening Post, Time, among others. I picked up the
issue of Life from 1971 with the cover story about the opening of Disney World
(two words back then). I also found the first issue of Time after JFK's
assassination. Cover: President Johnson.
While those were good finds, I was struck by something else. In two of these
homes, the man of the house literally had shelves of nothing but Louis L'amour
westerns. Mostly they were paperbacks, a mix of the Bantam titles (with the
black spines) and the more recent white ones (with the westerny font on the
spines). One house had what we now refer to as a man cave but was, probably,
just the library. With all the stuff of a certain age, the L'amour westerns did
not seem out of place. In fact, they seemed almost a requirement. I say that
because, when I was growing up, my dad and his dad both had their collections
of L'amour westerns on their respective bookshelves.
Which led me to this question: is there an author's work nowadays that is
required reading for a man? In forty years, at estate sales in 2052, will some
future buyer look at the bookshelves of men who lived in these early 21st
Century decades and think: "Ah, right, it was altogether fitting and
proper for a man to have read those books."
This post originally appeared over on shortbreadstories.co.ukin support of the Million for a Morgue Short Story Competition. Russel is reposting here as he is still in the midst of redrafts. Normal service will resume shortly.
The best crime fiction – the best fiction – creates the illusion of
reality. That is, the writer throws in just enough real life to distract
from the bits he made up.
I suppose that’s what you call artistic licence.
Realism is rarely real.
But a good writer is always aware of what he is doing, and knows just
how much reality he can allow to intrude on his fiction. After all, if
all crime fiction were “real”, there’d be a lot more internal
investigations and far too many scenes of filling out forms for us to
care. Also, if crime fiction were an accurate reflection of reality,
then no one would go out of doors for fear of the pervert serial killers
who live at least three to a street in the fictional world of many
crime fiction writers.
So to offset all the unreality of what we do, crime writers have to
ground their work in some kind of reality. Val McDermid, of course
famously uses the expertise of Dundee’s own Dr Sue Black to assist in
upping the realism of her investigative procedures. By melding her own
gothic sensibilities with the rigors of Black’s knowledge, McDermid
creates a world that is at once artificial (the killer is generally
always caught, Tony Hill never quite succumbs to a full and crippling
breakdown that would mark the end of the series, the killer always has
razor-sharp motivation for their crime) and utterly real (her knowledge
of the terrible things that can be done to the human body, as well
as her razor-sharp psychological insights, allow the reader to buy into
Sue Black is, of course, one of the driving forces behind Million For a Morgue.
If you don’t already know, Dr Black and the team are looking to raise 1
million pounds to fund a “centre for excellence” in forensic research.
With the full force of the aforementioned Val McDermid and 12 other
bestselling crime writers to back them up, this is one serious
fundraising effort. The Morgue will be named for one of the 12 crime
writers. And its research will have a global impact, assisting law
enforcement around the world.
Not only that, but no doubt a knock-on effect of the project will be
to inspire crime writers, and perhaps even present them with new
challenges. As research improves on current forensic techniques, many
crime writers will have to consider how their novels are to straddle
that line between reality and fiction.
While it is possible to write a crime novel with little research, you
will be caught out by eagle-eyed readers if the research basics aren’t
even considered. It’s a lesson I learned early when I sent out first
drafts of my novel, The Good Son, to trusted professionals in
the industry. I found that I’d managed to confuse Scots and English
criminal law and procedure. In fact, the first print run of the book
includes a reference to a job that exists only in English law. That
mistake was subsequently altered for future editions.
I did not have to worry much about forensics for my first couple of
novels. Or police procedure. I was writing a private eye novel, and
thought at first that I could get away with making it all up. But I soon
discovered that this was impossible. Making my character an
ex-policeman meant he had to know certain things about the law. And
while PI’s are unusual heroes in UK crime fiction, they still exist in
this country. Check out the Assiocation of British Investigators, and
you’ll discover the profession is alive and well. During research for The Good Son,
I found myself calling on the assistance of one of the UK’s senior eyes
to help me get a sense of the world he saw every day. I remember the
first time I phoned him, I got very excited when he had to hang-up
mid-sentence due to being on a stakeout and needed to follow a suspect. I
think, for him, it was routine. For me, it was a momentary adrenaline
rush. I never did find out who he was following or why. But of course,
that’s standard: even private eyes have to maintain a client
A great deal of research can now be done online, which is perhaps why
it has become so important. If Joe Q Reader can look up some basic
blood spatter information, then you should be able to as well. And you’d
better, or the reader will call you on it and start to disbelieve
further aspects of your work. But of course, you only want to include as
much of your research as necessary in the book. If you put too much on
the page, you slow the plot, and lose the reader just as much as if
you’d made the whole thing up.
Research, then, is key for any crime writer. You don’t have to put it
all down on the page, but you have to know enough to make your world
ring true. You have to put in enough fact to disguise the outright
fantasy (or, as its more generally known, “dramatic license”). As well
as helping forensic research and law enforcement agencies across the
globe, a project like Dundee’s Centre for Forensic Excellence will
likely affect the way that crime writers approach their work. Its
discoveries may change the way we look at criminal investigation and in
order to keep their work plausible, crime writers like myself and the 12
bestsellers who have backed the project will have to work hard to keep
our stories “real”.
Light one this week. At the weekend I put up audio on my own website of me reading a short story, and I wanted to give it more coverage this week.
The story is The Lost Profits which I published on this here shiny site a couple of weeks ago. Click the link and you'll hear me reading it, including a failed attempt to do my original accent about halfway through.
The reason I'm pimping this story is...well...because I like it. But also because it ties in to OLD GOLD. It's not crucial to the book; this isn't the bit where a stupid kid with things in his blood grows up to become a cyborg, or some shite like that. But the events of this story tie into the first chapter of the novel in a bit of a fun way.
As an Easter egg once you've read OLD GOLD, there is another connection that I'm leaving out there for people to try and work out.
The Lost Profits is also part of a free collection of prequel stories that will be going out first to people on my mailing list by the end of the month. If you want to be one of the first to read the collection, sign up
Howdy, peeps. I'm spending Tuesday night with the Mystery Writers of America in Bethesda. I'm in good company as our own Brian and Sandra are supposed to be there, too.
Recent postings on the Short Mystery Fiction Society's Listserv questioned if a "Renaissance of shorts in short fiction" were occurring. And it's perhaps easy to see what prompted that discussion. While the oldest of the digest journals, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, recently celebrated its seventieth anniversary, other journals -- both in print and online -- are sprouting up regularly, and booms in e-publishing have also resulted in a bonanza of short-story collections being no more than a few clicks away.
I'll attempt a short write-up at some point on Wednesday, June 6.
In the meantime, head over to the DSD Group site on GoodReads to vote for our Summer Big Read for our book group. Click here.
I took a picture.
So I think that went well. Brian, Sandra, and I talked about short fiction and answered some questions. I hope they were the sort of answers that were, you know, helpful.
I find a sort of balance at these things. The fact that I don't know what I'm about to say balances out with the fact that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
I'll tell you what's weird, though. This was in the basement of the Hyatt in Bethesda. They probably don't call it the basement. Maybe it's The Lowerzinne Level or something. Anyhoo, this is the place with Morton's Hoity-Toity and Steak on the first floor. Last week I sent out "On Submission" a story I'd written about that place. Was weird seeing it again. Like bumping into some jerk you know after you've just pretended to be him and called the county real estate assessment office complaining that your taxes are too low and that the problem with the country is all those damn [whatever is the race of the county assessor].
OK. Maybe not as convoluted as that. But weird.
So it seems short fiction is alive and well, finding homes online and in print. Which is good news, you know, as it's what we do.
But what is also clearly evident is that people care about this stuff, and they care about talking through this stuff. This writing stuff. This reading stuff.
Groups like Mystery Writers of America chapters and critique groups and workshops are fantastic for indirect reasons, as well as those direct ones. Sure you maybe get some advice on the story you're writing. But you get to be with like-minded people. You know, in person and stuff.
It's like belonging to a tribe, I guess. And it's damned helpful.
And here's a book some of those folks have just put together -- a fifth volume. Check it.
The latest installment in the Chesapeake Crimes mystery series focuses on working stiffs—literally! Included in this collection are new tales by: Shari Randall, C. Ellett Logan, Karen Cantwell, E. B. Davis, Jill Breslau, David Autry, Harriette Sackler, Barb Goffman, Ellen Herbert, Smita Harish Jain, Leone Ciporin, Cathy Wiley, Donna Andrews, Art Taylor. Foreword by Elaine Viets.
Samantha DeRose is a colleague of mine, one who is also moonlighting as a stand-up comedian. She's brilliant, funny and got a ton to say, so let's get to it right now.
DSD: How did you get into stand-up
SR: My mother blames my father. I’ve always been the family
buffoon. My father always made me
do impressions when I was little...I did a bad ass Richard Nixon. I’d do it now, but it’ll lose its
comedic appeal in print.
Then it was the old “my friends always
told me I was funny” spiel, but you know, just because your friends think
you’re funny doesn’t mean the rest of the world shares that opinion.
I’ve been writing off-the-wall
observations since I was a kid. I’m
pretty sure my sister & brother got more than they bargained for when then
snooped in my diary.
About 5 years ago, a friend suggested
that I take my musings to the comedy stage and naturally, I did nothing. Until one day, when I was going through
a rough time in my life , a postcard arrived in the mail. In an effort to pull me out of my funk,
my friend had signed me up for a beginner’s level comedy course at Gotham
Comedy Club in NYC.
DSD: Tell us a story, as we all have
a bit of stage fright: What's your best performance? Why did it
work so well?
SR: So I’m guessing performance issues are
universal. My best show was my
first road gig in front of a crowd of 400 people. I was opening for comedians whom I had
really admired. The day before the
show, the comic who had been my hero, snubbed me big time. My confidence was pretty much in the
So I meditated for the first time in my
life. An hour before the show, I
sat in my hotel listening to Tibetan new-age music and visualized my set as a
complete success. And it was. What really helped me was being able to
actually “see” myself as being successful, which is really essential in
everything that we do.
People actually wanted to take photos
with me after the show. OK. Two people, but ya gotta start
somewhere, right? One, a college freshman, majoring in education, had really
loved my bits about the teaching.
Another was a woman who had just gone through some of the same
difficulties that I had experienced in the past. She said that it was the first time that she had laughed in
about a year.
I took the obstacles in my life and
turned them into something that people could laugh about. It was honest and that’s why it was
DSD: Reverse it. Have you
bombed? How'd you deal with that on stage? As writers, we deal with
bad reviews, but those are filtered by the text on the screen or on
paper. We rarely see the people who don't like our work.
SR: I bombed miserably sister’s 50th
birthday party. My aunt thought
that it would be a “hoot” if I did a set in front of all of our friends and
relatives. Because it’s so easy
coming up with a set that appeals to an audience whose ages range from 2 years
old to 97.
After a healthy bout of nausea and a
glass of wine (or 12) I bit the bullet and bombed. I can still see my mother’s head hanging in shame. It’s one thing to bomb in front of
people you’ll never see again, but family and friends? I think I’ll stick to face painting at
family parties, thank you very much.
Then again, we kind of don’t talk about the face painting incident
either. They were CIGARS! I swear (I seriously have pictures).
DSD: To me, as a novelist, writing is
very individual. I don't worry too much about the audience until it's too
late and the book is already out there. When you write your material, do
you consider your audience?
SR: I definitely alter my material for
different audiences. Clearly I
learned that lesson at my sister’s party.
We all have different personas depending on our environments. I’m a mom, I’m a teacher, and I’m
a comedian. I present myself in
differently depending on who’s around.
And the same holds true for comedy. My set at a cancer benefit for Gilda’s Club last year was
quite different than the set that I just did at a bar in Newark two months
That’s what I love about the art form
though. I can take the same
premises and rewrite them to appeal to different audiences.
DSD: What is your writing
process? Is there a way to know if a joke is funny or not in advance or
does it need that audience approval?
SR: The problem is that I find potential
humor in everything. I’m
constantly writing premises down (mainly on the envelopes of unpaid bills).
Then it’s a matter of trying those bits in front of different audiences,
rephrasing, and trying different timing, until the jokes get solid laughs. Most of the time, jokes in their final
stages look drastically different than what they looked like on the back of the
PS&G bill (maybe because the lights had been cut off). But it’s important to remember that
nothing is ever garbage. I often
revisit old stuff that might not have worked in the past and try the bits in a
different context. It’s pretty
cool when the jokes end up working a year or two later.
DSD: Who are some of your inspirations?
SR: My family, friends, and my two sons are
constant sources of material and inspiration.
Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Steve
Martin were my earliest influences. In the 80s, Eddie Murphy. 90s, Seinfeld. It’s such a long list, but to name a
few more, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Kathy Griffin, Louis C.K., Zach
Galifianakis, Jon Stewart, Chelsea Handler, and Tina Fey all crack me the heck
up in different ways.
I’m really inspired by the comics that I
see in local shows, too. My
friends in the comedy community are so dedicated to the craft and really make
me want to push myself. I also
watch a lot of up-and coming-comics on YouTube. There’s a lot of talent out there just waiting to be
discovered...and they’re just a click away.
DSD: Okay, I've waited long enough to mention it, but it appears you have shaved your
head. The picture at the top of this post is a dead giveaway. Why?
SR: I was trying to think of a new way to
embarrass my mother since the birthday party incident. She wasn’t embarrassed (by the
haircut). And contrary to
what people think about teachers, it had nothing to do with random drug
testing. Truth. I’ve been teaching
for 12 years and I’m always trying to find ways to inspire my students, not
only to do well academically, but also to help others. I told my students that I would raise
$10,000 for St. Baldrick’s Foundation for Childrens’ Cancer Research and shave
my head publicly if they all passed my class for a marking period. It’s a cause very close to my heart as
I lost my brother to cancer and I taught several students who had battled the
disease. Suffice it to say, my
students passed, I’m bald, and we’re steadily reaching our $10,000 goal.
DSD: You're a teacher, what is your
opinion on the state of education in the news, government, or world right now?
SR: Loaded question. The modern American classroom is a
Today’s students face a number of issues
before they even enter our classes from poverty to transience to hunger to
pregnancy, just to scratch the surface. Have I mentioned budget cuts, layoffs,
and overcrowded classrooms?
The catch 22 is do teachers try to get
through their curriculum first or tend to their students’ issues first?
Please show me where standardized testing
factors all of those components into the final equation when determining
In the past, teachers had the support of
parents, administrators, boards of education, and politicians. Teachers could patch up the hole if one
component went missing. But now it’s as if all of the components are gone
EXCEPT for the teachers, yet they’re to blame. Go figure.
This is the worst analogy to make but
here goes. I have always loved
being a teacher but now I feel like I’m in a relationship where I’m in love and
the other person doesn’t love me back.
You know what I mean? It’s
that point in a relationship where you try everything in your power to make it
work and your heart is breaking but deep down you know the other person is just
not that into you.
DSD: I do know exactly what you mean. We all have that love of the job, but... Sigh. Meanwhile, do you find any similarities
between teaching and stand-up comedy?
Great segue. Yes, there are definitely similarities. Teachers are
constantly working on and revamping their subject matter to make it relevant,
meaningful, and engaging. And
that’s exactly what the stand-up comic has to do. You have to develop relevant material, establish a rapport
with an audience, make sure that you don’t isolate them, and ultimately leave
them wanting to come back again.
And the last part is the hardest in both cases (particularly with
DSD: Any upcoming gigs you'd like to plug? A website?
producing and performing in a show at The Duplex in Greenwich Village on June
22, 9:30 pm with great comics who have performed all over the world and even
written for well-known actors such as Jane lynch.
be at Otto’s Shrunken Head on 14th St. in Manhattan on June 13 and
July 6 at 6pm.
I’ll be appearing in Montclair, NJ at Tierney’s Tavern on July 8 .at 8:00 p.m.
I tutor post-secondary writing students in diploma programs. Recently, a student asked me about my experiences as a debut author. I started thinking about what it was like, how I felt, how things worked...
Or didn't work. It took me several days to compile a cohesive response that didn't recount the entire history and drama of that event. As I was trying to figure out what to say, and what not to say at this point, one of the things I kept going back to in my mind was the wealth of bad advice that's available online. The blind leading the blind, and how often people stay silent and stand by and watch others make disastrous mistakes.
That's part of the reason I tutor. I have a chance to help people avoid the pitfalls and navigate the terrain successfully. I actually have a chance to help make a difference that can help someone be successfully published. I guess I've always been one of those people that thinks you should do for others what you would have wanted people to do for you. Sometimes, my faith falters, but generally speaking, I'm a stickler that way.
I think that's why I don't get along with a lot of people. I had a recent conversation with someone about a clear abuse situation with an individual, but the witness wouldn't pick up the phone and report it. They didn't want to get involved. I saw that when I worked in the schools. I've seen it in daycares and preschools.
It's just so damned easy to sit back and do nothing. We wonder why the world is the way it is. All it takes is one apathetic individual after another doing nothing for nothing to change.
Then people bitch about all the ignorant aspiring writers out there, doing stupid things... And it seems to be equally easy in the writing world is to spout bad advice, to disregard the possibility of your influence and mislead people, either because some people genuinely don't think about how bad the advice they're shelling out is, because they're wannabes themselves, or they just don't care.
I've always weighed the tone of discussion lists and forums, and as long as the general good advice outweighed the occasional insanity, felt that as long as the list was recommended with the caveat that you source the suggestions, and know your sources are reliable, that they could be more helpful than hurtful.
I made a decision recently to stop recommending to students that they join certain forums or discussion lists. I've gotten pretty good at just walking away from a useless conversation with idiots spouting idiocy... but I've found that when the sites involved are ones I've recommended in the past, I have less tolerance for it. Undoubtedly, someone will come back to me citing horrific advice from some unknown nobody on the site who's never had anything published, and I've got to try to undo the damage.
Now, I could have turned this into an extended rant about something recently that did totally piss me off. However, that's not what I'm concerned with. What I really got thinking about was why it was so easy for people to follow bad advice.
And I finally realized, as I was typing up a response to a student's question, the answer.
Because in the early days, it's just the writing. Correction. It isn't even the writing, it's the storytelling. Aspiring writers are often just in love with the idea of writing. They don't think about the mechanics of publication, and why different things matter. I certainly didn't when I signed my first deal. Commas? Paragraphs? Formatting? Distribution networks? Print on demand? Retailer discounts? Why would I be thinking about any of those things?
Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones. You'll get a good agent early on. You'll get a fair deal and have generally positive experiences in publishing, and have no reason to really learn the nitty gritty, or come to a point of regret where you wish you hadn't signed your deal.
But it's more likely that you'll be one of the ones that experiences the ups and downs of publishing, to greater or lesser degrees, and finds yourself wishing you'd known more about the business before you you realized you were off course.
Early on in my writing ventures, I got into a spat with an author who'd had a few books published, with limited distribution. Not someone who was ever going to top the bestseller lists, and only had a few titles, but a known name in blogging circles and on discussion lists. The person told me I didn't know enough about the business of publishing. At the time, I suggested if they thought I had things to learn, why not tell me? The response was that they'd tried guiding new authors before, and new authors just don't listen.
Now, at the time, I looked at the fact that this information was coming from someone who had three books that had been published, and behind the scenes had a pretty bad reputation, and blew them off. It was easy to justify, since they made it clear they weren't going to waste their time on me anyway.
I was wrong. So were they, but I've come to understand their position. I did need to know more. I was definitely frustrated by people like that one, who held their knowledge close and rubbed your lack of access to it in your face.
I now understand the other side of the coin. I understand making the effort to try to be informative and helpful instead of counterproductive to people's writing. And I know what it's like to be ignored.
What I've learned is to move on. I'm not sticking around on sites that have an unending chorus of stupidity that dominates the discussion. I'm not banging my head against a wall or losing sleep about anyone who ignores sound advice (be it from me or anyone else).
But once a month, I'll throw things open here to answer questions. Got one? Leave it in the comments.
First Monday of the month I'll tackle publishing-related questions, and if I can't answer them, I'll try to find someone who can. This gives everyone a fair shot to get insight on issues of importance to them. Take it or leave it - I won't lose any sleep over that either. I had to learn a lot of things the hard way. I'm doing this because the number of forums and discussion lists that I'll recommend has shrunk to nothing, and the blogging world isn't what it once was, although there are still a few blogs I recommend. If you do know great sites/lists, drop the recommendation in the comments. Otherwise, drop in your questions, and I'll see you in a few weeks.
Happy July.I’m not
sure how it is already July.I mean, I
understand the passage of time.Seconds
turn into minutes.Minutes turn into
hours.Hours into days.Etc… Etc… Etc…But despite knowing how it happened, I am
still protesting the fact we are halfway through this year.My to-do list for the year hasn’t gotten
shorter, which is the reason I’m totally freaked about the turn of the calendar
and this new month staring me in the face.
The month of July also makes me feel nervous for another
reason.MURDER FOR CHOIR launches in 2
days.I’m excited and panicked and
thrilled and about ready to throw up.(Don’t I make publishing sound totally awesome?)These are all emotions I’m used to feeling on
the opening of a new show and thus far every book that I have published has
come with its own set of butterflies.
Launching this series is particularly nerve wracking because
it has so much of me in between the jacket covers.My heroine, Paige Marshall, is a classically
trained singer hoping to land her big break.To make ends meet, she takes a job as a high school show choir coach and
finds a rival choir director strangled with a microphone cord—dead.
Ok—I’ve never tripped over a dead body, but I know what it
is like to go to audition after audition and not land that break you have
worked so hard for.I’ve also taught
voice to lots of high school students.So, while Paige is in no way me, I know her.I know what kind of drive it takes to face
those auditions.To keep hoping and
dreaming.And how frustrating and
rewarding it can be to work with the next generation that are looking to take
that same career path.
So, while everything I write has bits and pieces of me in
it, this one has a great deal of my soul.(Probably an odd thing to say about a book with a large standard poodle
intent on making the heroine go hungry!)I hope readers pick up the book.I hope they enjoy the story enough to read the next one.
This week, I was watching an old episode of the NBC show
SMASH. If you don’t follow the show, it
is about the personal and profession journeys of those involved in bringing a
new musical to Broadway. I know you’re
shocked that I watch a show involving the quest to launch a Broadway musical!
(Insert laugh track here.) And while the
show has a great number of subplots that I don’t care about (honest to God
musical theater performers are not all sex fiends who believe in sleeping with
the lyricist or the director), I have found myself watching for the things the
show gets right. The moments of anxiety
about being a performer. The despair
when you get rejected. The strength it
takes after a bad show to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and find a way to
make things better the next time.
This show gets a lot of things about the musical theater
business right. However, I have noticed
that there are times where they have chosen to skip accuracy for the sake of
more impactful storytelling. Perhaps you
are now rolling your eyes at me and thinking that they got it wrong because
they didn’t do the research. That they
were lazy. And maybe in some cases that
is true, but there are times I am certain they know what is accurate and have
chosen to ditch what happens in real life for what will make the story more
interesting to the viewer.
Case in point—more often than not in theater, the female
performers wear wigs when performing on stage.
This is done for a number of reasons that range from needing different
hair colors to allowing the performer to change from one style to another
without much difficulty. When a wig
needs to be worn by a girl with long hair, she had to bobby pin her hair into
pin curls so her hair lays flat against her head in order to make the wig fit
look natural. During several backstage
scene in SMASH you see girls with the pin curls. The writers of the show and the costumers
clearly understand that they exist. Yet,
when one of the leading characters takes off her wig during a dramatic moment,
her real hair is not confined into tightly wound segments pinned around her
head. Nope. When the wig comes off, her real hair comes
cascading down as she storms off screen.
When I first saw the scene, the theater performer in me
shook my head because the show got that detail wrong, but the writer in me
nodded with approval at the choice to ditch accuracy. Why?
Because a girl in pin curls looks…well…silly. Trust me.
I’ve looking in many a mirror at myself in pin curls and while they are
useful they aren’t flattering. Not only
that, the character who stormed off then has a scene where she needs the audience
to connect with her…feel her vulnerability.
The whole pin curl thing would have felt foreign to most of the viewing
public. It would have put an invisible
barrier between them and the performer. To
avoid this, accuracy was sacrificed for storytelling.
As a writer, I try to research everything to the best of my ability, but there are times where I find myself looking for ways to bend the research to where I want the story to go. Accuracy is important, especially if you don't want people to point and snicker and say you didn't do your homework. Still, I think there are moments like the one with the wig on SMASH that shows that sometimes total accuracy has to take a backseat?
Or am I wrong? Does a minor inaccuracy make you put down the book or leave the movie theater? Do you always insist on impeccably correct details or have you found yourself able to forgive a minor discrepancy from the way things work in real life if the choice aids the telling of a story?