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It’s all in the details…

By Kav — November 30, 2016

Are you a stickler for detail? Does incorrect information pull you out of a story? I know some readers who are real nit-pickers but I usually don’t allow myself to get bogged down by minor details when I’m devouring a novel. Recently though I’ve noticed a few glitches that really threw me off my reading game. They got stuck in my brain and replayed over the course of the story. Drove me crazy!

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I recently caught the airing of a new holiday movie — The Nine Lives of Christmas. It was right up my alley.  Fire fighter hero (need I say more?) Frisky ginger cat with a mind of his own. I do so love a good animal story! What’s not to love? Well there was one scene…

It’s Christmas time (obviously) and, baby, it’s cold outside. The hero and heroine head out on an impromptu date. She’s in a slinky black mini dress and high heels. He’s in shirt sleeves.  They decide to get dinner at a food truck and eat outside at a picnic table. In December. In the cold. Everyone around them is bundled up — coats, mitts, hats and scarves. It’s obviously freezing outside but these two are flirting and bantering practically in their skivvies! The incongruity of it all bugged me for the rest of the movie. Talk about distracting! Why didn’t anyone catch this rather obvious detail? Writers, actors, director? Somebody must have noticed how odd it was.

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I recently read my first Baxter Family book (Karen Kingsbury.) A Baxter Family Christmas is #24 in a long line of books in the series. Phew! There’s no way I could catch up but the author did a great job of creating a memorable story that had just as much meaning for the new-to-the-Baxters readers as life long fans. Loved the story — the way faith and family are shouted from the rooftop! The sweet, goosebumpy Christmas message. So off I went to post my review only to discover some 1 and 2 star reviews. Seriously? Who could rate such a heartwarming story so low? Die-hard fans, that’s who. Readers who knew the Baxter family, including the ages of the parents, kids and grandkids and apparently, those ages didn’t add up in this Christmas story and they weren’t happy. On the one hand — how awesome is it to have people so emotionally invested in your characters? On the other hand — how scary is it to have people so emotionally invested in your characters? A writer would definitely have to be detail-oriented to keep on top of things.

Isn’t it funny how the little details have the power to stall a reader’s karma? Like when a cover doesn’t match the story. Now that can send me into a tailspin. I just finished reading a romantic suspense where the heroine was described as having close-cropped hair that framed her face but on the cover image she’s sporting a long swishy ponytail.  Seriously?

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And take a look at this cover for Shelley Shepard Gray’s A Sister’s Wish. If you are an Amish fiction fan you will notice a major faux pas in this image. The hero is sporting a very un-Amish haircut. And if that isn’t enough, this bachelor has a beard and a mustache! (insert indignant gasp here.) Amish men don’t grow a beard until they are married and no Amish male has a mustache. Period.

So how did the art team get this so terribly wrong? I have no idea — other than maybe they surmised by the back blurb that Simon, who had lived among the Englisch for some years, had just recently returned to Charm. However, he’s been back for quite a while, living Amish but never married. So the whole hair/beard thing is  wrong on so many levels. There is a very minor character — a teen named Justin described as having “hair practically shaved off”- and I wonder if someone caught that description early on in the book and just assumed it was the hero? I can’t tell you how distracting that cover was for me as I read the book. And obviously it still does since I’m mentioning it here.

So — if you are a writer — how do you keep track of details? Is it a struggle or are you just naturally detail-oriented? And if you’re a reader — do mixed-up details bother you or do you just go with the flow?

 

 

 

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(12) Readers Comments

  1. November 30, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Details do matter, but as you said, unless they're biggies, I don't let it bother me. Covers that don't match the characters' descriptions are definitely annoying. I once read a contemporary book in which this very popular author moved the Mississippi River in the Mpls area, or they mistook the Minnesota River for the Mississippi. Either way, that completely drew me out of the story and makes me question the author's reliability in storytelling. And no, that wasn't her only geographical faux pas. ~~~ As a writer, it helps that I write what I know setting-wise, and if it's an area I've only visited, I take pictures to get the area correct.

    • Kav
      November 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      And not everyone would catch something like that if they weren't familiar with the area. Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't be so trusting of my fiction for my history and geography facts. LOL

  2. Stephanie Ludwig
    November 30, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Details bug me a lot, Kav! I agree with Brenda; geographical details always pull me out of a story if I'm familiar with the area. In the pilot episode of "Hell on Wheels," the railroad camp is said to be located near Council Bluffs, Iowa (right across the river from Omaha), and yet the topography revealed rocky cliffs and mountains (clearly, they were filming in Canada somewhere!). A cover detail that bothered me once I noticed was in a series of young adult romances in which the heroine was named Rosie. On the cover, Rosie has long, flowing red hair, and yet she is described in the story as having black hair. It only bothered me because the character felt more like a redhead than a midnight brunette!

    • Kav
      November 30, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      LOL -- yes, blame the Canadian scenery. :-) I also wonder how they can get covers so terribly wrong. A redhead is certainly different from black hair. You'd think if no one else noticed the author would. Wonder how much input an author gets? 'Cause I bet it's the author who gets the comments from readers.

      • November 30, 2016 at 5:24 pm

        I've read that the character description matching isn't a requirement for cover design. Wish I could remember where--I think on some agent/editor blog. But anyway, they said that making an eye-catching cover was more important that trying to match the H/H inside. I just remember thinking that made no sense because as a reader, that's very important to me. That's one blessing I have from going indie. I get to choose the cover models so what you see on the outside will match very closely to what's on the inside. Unless the photos are taken specifically for you cover, it'll never be perfect, but it'll be close. ~~~ One fun little detail about the cover for my upcoming book. When I first received the cover from my designer and blew it up, I saw what looked like an extra little mark on the heroine's nose. My daughter, who has much better eyesight than I do pointed out that it was a diamond stud. Face palm! So my first reaction was to ask my designer to blot it out, but then I realized that this character would definitely have a diamond nose stud, and a very good reason why. :)

        • Kav
          November 30, 2016 at 7:57 pm

          Oooohhhh -- love that insider scoop of Brenda Anderson, indie author. And, seriously, that cover info about publishers thinking the h/h don't need to be accurately portrayed on the cover is plain ridiculous. Guess I'll start commenting more about that and maybe they'll take the hint, :-)

  3. Dawn Ford
    November 30, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Oh, Kav! I'm dealing with that for my cover right now. I have several details I have to put into it, and the stock photos just aren't quite right. It would and should be easier for those who publish through regular channels, since most of them do photo shoots for their covers, not ready made pictures. So I'm having a photographer friend do a shoot for me so I get the cover to match the character and book. Not that authors should allow those details to be missed, but I now understand more than ever how hard it is to make those details consistent.

    • Kav
      December 1, 2016 at 9:03 am

      It's great that you have full control like that, Dawn. And readers do notice. I don't understand why publishers don't care about covers matching the actual story. Gah! I know yours will be awesome!

  4. Regina Merrick
    November 30, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    The cover is usually what makes me want to read a book. It's like when you watch a movie based on a book you love, and the hero and heroine looks NOTHING like in the book. I'm really nervous about covers. I haven't even started with the book cover artist - we're only through chapter 5 of edits! Speaking of edits, a good editor is worth their weight in gold. It is AMAZING the little things mine is catching - and making it SO MUCH BETTER! Like, for instance, not using all caps to make a point . . . LOL!

    • Kav
      December 1, 2016 at 9:06 am

      I'm a cover snob too. It takes a really big name, favourite author to get me to pick up a book with a bad cover. LOL

  5. Regina Merrick
    November 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Oh, and I may have mentioned this before, but I once started a book by an author that I dearly love, and stopped reading it because of a believably issue. Kav, you will appreciate this. The character is a librarian in a tiny town, in a tiny library. Her parents are killed brutally, and in her grief and anger at the situation, she - get this - KNOCKS OVER ALL THE SHELVES IN THE LIBRARY. Really? I mean, wno is going to pick up all those books? AND, if they were THAT easy to turn over, the place was a death trap! No librarian in her right mind would do that. It just wouldn't be prudent.

    • Kav
      December 1, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Bwahahahahaha!!!! I totally appreciate that. I might collapse in a heap of grief at the feet of a beloved library shlef, or wallow in the stacks but I would never...gasp...overturn a bookshelf!!!!!! And yes, I agree -- death trap shelves for sure. When I worked at the college library the shelves had been moved so much (great summer jobs for the likes of me) that they weren't as sturdy as they once were so the carpenter had to come and shore them up with metal rods running across the top of each bookcase and anchored into the pillars and walls. LOL Librarians could switch the floor plans any more after that.

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