Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writing the Right Details

All writers make an occasional mistake in details - even high-paid TV writers. On the season premier of Castle, Beckett got her directions confused. She said a car was going south off of Long Island.  Wrong! The car would have to be heading west. Maybe she meant they were heading south before going west, but that's not what I heard.

Get your details wrong and you are guaranteed to annoy someone

Historical writers are well aware of this. Their readers are experts on the time period. They may overlook small changes in dates and places to fit the story, but they won't tolerate major errors.

Sci/fi writers are less challenged by pinpoint accuracy. They can create worlds, characters, and gadgets on a whim and their readers are more likely to accept the details.

I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful critique group that reads for content of a story. If my heroine doesn't change her flip-flops before going out in a snowstorm, they'll question it. 

Webcams/Google Maps

There are endless lists of tools that writers can use to get details right. Google maps is one of my favorites. It can virtually navigate you anywhere in the world. Weather sites have webcams that can give you lots of details. The shot below is of the Viaduct in Auckland, NZ at 1:51 pm on 10/8/14.  You can be virtually anywhere in the world in seconds.


If you prefer hands on, there are endless reference books. The NY public library has an amazing map division.

Amazon Listmania

 Listmania is lists created by other Amazon users to share books on their favorite topics. It took me a while to figure out how to use this. Recently, I created a list for a sale from one of my loops. I had a hard time getting back to that list. After some fooling around with google search, I found the list by typing in the name - Amazon Listmania List for Sweet Romance Fall Sale
It seems like a lot to type into a search, but it took me right to my list. 

You could create a google custom search if you prefer. You would need one for each topic you're researching.

For me the hardest part of doing research is being able to stop and go back to my writing. It's easy to get consumed by all the amazing facts and details at our fingertips which can still lead to a mistake or two. 


  1. How did we survive without the internet and a google search for those deatils? I know I click in and out of it when I'm writing when I need a quick tidbit of info for the scene I am in.

    As for Listmania and the rest, I am co techno-challenged that I can't even begin to think about that.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post, very helpful, thank you!

  3. You are so right, Zelda. The right details can make a story come alive.