Note to Self: Somebody Always Notices

The Fatal Flaw

I read a book once with an interesting plot line (familiar premise but with plenty of originality in the treatment), likable characters, and wonderfully flawed protagonists with plenty of room for improvement.  The writer's style is fluid and very readable.  I have a terrible habit of picking apart grammar skills if the story fails to engage me.  However, this book drew me in and I escaped the plague of terminal editing.

One of the elements of the story propelled it into action sequences and created the sense of urgency, frustration, and heightened danger.  Unfortunately, it was inherently flawed.  Our hero was suspected of committing a terrible crime in a different country.  The author put all the investigation and criminal prosecution into the hands of US authorities, without the least mention of extradition or any type of prosecution in the nation of jurisdiction.  Neither did they provide (in my opinion) enough compelling evidence to advance the suspect beyond the status of a "person of interest."

This is where it all falls apart.  Without that arrest and presumed arraignment, the protagonist would not then be jumping bail to rush to his lady love's side.  Neither would the fear of a US trial be looming over his head.  It just doesn't hold up, and while reading subsequent chapters, that niggling little objection stifles the tension and desperation the author carefully builds.  It saddens me to say it, but it ruined the book for me.

A Maple Tree?  Seriously? 

In another situation, a writer set much of the action in my hometown, Houston, Texas.  Unfortunately, I finished the book wondering if they had ever actually been here.  They make reference to a prominent university here and its abundance of trees, then identify a specific maple tree as a favorite.  I just drove around that campus the day before yesterday, and, yes, the trees are prominent and plentiful.  There are lots of trees.  Lots and lots and lots of majestic live oak and stately magnolia trees.  They give the campus a distinctively Southern air.  When I think maple, I think New England.

The writer also makes reference to cool, refreshing breezes and balmy air in August or September, as well as rare patches of sunshine.  Like I said.  If they have ever been here, it wasn't a very long stay.  Or, perhaps a sentence or even a word here or there could have corrected the misconception.  Houston does have some absolutely fabulous weather.  Spring is gorgeous and autumn divine.  However, spring here is February, and autumn is November.  Everything else ranges from hot & muggy to sweltering to keep small children, pets and the elderly indoors.

Fact Checkers & Beta Readers

Write what you know.  Isn't that the mantra?  For years, I felt certain I knew absolutely nothing.  What was I besides an uneducated housewife with a small, little life, trapped within the confines of four walls, a cramped periphery, and a dilapidated body?  I never thought writing anything of interest possible for me.

Then, the world came to me through the wonders of the Internet.  Now, I write about places I dream of going and imagine what they must be like.  Google Earth can show me three-dimensional topography of swelling downs and towering mountain ranges, and street-view maps can let me "drive" from Geneva up over the top of the Alps and down again to Lago Maggiore, but I can't roll down the windows and feel the breeze caress my face and ruffle through my hair, or breathe in the crisp piney scent, or feel the wooziness of high altitudes and a roller-coaster ride along the switchbacks.  I can imagine, but other people—maybe even my readers—have actually been there.  Will my research seem equally dodgy to them?

Once, I perched a magnificent castle on a ledge of a craggy mountain overlooking Lake Windermere in Cumbria, UK.  It towered over the countryside with a drop so precipitous, long lanky lads flung themselves off the battlements and into the fathomless icy waters below.  Very dramatic.  Very—over the top.  Unfortunately, the image above is Lake Windermere.  Picturesque.  Enchanting, even.  But it hardly lends itself to cliff diving like Lake Powell or Acapulco.  That castle definitely needs restructuring.

So, research, research, research, and when I have done that, I have to research some more.  The devil is in the details, and I want to ensure the verity of even the minutiae.

Then, I will beg one or two of my Limey friends to read my work and tell me how wrong I've got it.  I can just imagine a perfectly turned manuscript, a masterpiece of grammatical correctness and language form and style that falls to pieces because I portrayed my locales as something they were not.  Hopefully, if I am very careful, I can keep that from happening.

                                                                                             —a Chaotic Mind 

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