By Steve Weddle
I tend to worry about things quite a bit, for quite a while, until I just don't care anymore. I get tired of worrying about them, so I just let them go.
What's that thing in the front yard? Is it a body? Should I go check? I really should. Days can pass like this. Eventually, I just get tired of thinking about it.
So it is with street names.
When I was writing COUNTRY HARDBALL, I'd try to keep going when the Doubt Dingo would start circling, asking whether I had the place right, the name right, the street right. The DD would tell me to stop and look it up. I'd need to get the name of the street correct. I couldn't say Highway 58 if it was really Highway 85, after all.
People would read this and tell me I was wrong. People would post on Amazon how I'd gotten the name of a restaurant wrong, the mascot for a team wrong. The Doubt Dingo continued to circle, barking at me to stop, to research while I was writing. Man, I hate that damn dog.
Most of the time, I'd just power through and figure I'd come back and track down the pesky bits later. And I would.
In re-reading the manuscript for the 37th time recently, I was again visited by the Dingo of Doubt. Science would suggest that substantial amounts of alcohol would be enough to drown him, but I haven't found the right balance. Or my own after enough of it.
Anyhoo, I realized that if you're using my book to drive through the backwoods of Arkansas, then you're probably a complete dumbass I don't need to worry about.
My novel isn't a damn Rand McNally Road Atlas. It isn't a wikipedia article on handguns.
Did I work on getting all the details right? You're damn right I did. And the folks who worked through each and every page over and over checked things, too. I got notes and questions back. And we fixed all kinds of things I'd screwed up. So, the roads are right, but that's what makes a good story, is it?
But my stories aren't about a building, they're not about a road. They're about the people in those buildings, the people who walk those roads when the sun starts to come up so that they can stand all day behind a damn cash register until it's time to come home at sundown and spend the night trying to figure out which three of the eleven bills they can pay that week. And it's about the other guy from another road who knocks on the door at midnight, saying he's got a $500 job if you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty.
I don't write for cartographers.
If you're reading my book thinking it will help you get to Miller's Laundromat, then you're looking for a journey I can't give you.
No. What I need to do is focus on the people, not the map. Focus on the details of the people, that's what matters. Not whether that gas station on Highway 58 closed in 1998 or 1997. The details about the people, about their struggles, those are the details that matter.
I have to work through the damned dingo barking at me, telling me to stop my momentum, get and and make sure I'm writing about the right highway.
I don't write for dingoes. Bunch of illiterate baby-eaters, anyway.