I had the opportunity to talk at length with a reporter who worked in Glasgow during the time of the Bible John investigation. He was surprised I knew about it... obviously, I knew about it because of a Rankin book.
He told me, "He got a few things wrong." Then he said, "I shouldn't say that. It's not like he'd know, and it's a good book."
Do you guys ever start feeling too much knowledge can be a curse?
We all make mistakes. I have. So, this is not about me being perfect and others being idiots. Not at all. But in the past few months I've hit on things in my reading that I tripped over. In one book, following up a lead in Ontario, Canada meant calling the RCMP. (I don't want to spill details of the lead, but trust me, this is a 'local jurisdiction' thing.) Wonder what the Ontario Provincial Police would think... but then, it's just Canada, we're used to it. Not many foreign novels that touch on Canada get it right. Law & Order almost never does. (I'll never forgive them for saying Muskoka is a town. Of all the bloody things, were you too lazy to even check a map? It's a district. Pffft.)
I was reading something else and it included an arson investigation and Kevin kept asking if I was enjoying it. Finally I said, Yeah, but... See, Evil Kev's a trained arson investigator, and a firefighter. As soon as I told him how the arson investigation was handled he knew why I was having trouble with it. It was 100% wrong.
Now, I'm trying not to be extra grumpy, because I got a rejection letter yesterday based on a partial. The reason? Something in my story wasn't realistic. Only the "something" they mentioned isn't something that happens in my book. And since they didn't have a full in front of them, I guess they just projected the outcome of the story? Skipped reading the outline?
I don't know if I should be doubly amused or annoyed to have my work rejected over an element that isn't realistic that it doesn't include when I'm reading other books from big publishers that have major things wrong... But I'm leaning on amusement.
And then I'm asking myself what's fair to assess. The average reviewer wouldn't know anything about arson investigation. Would it be fair for me to criticize the author over it? Maybe it's unfair, because I'm in a position to know too much?
And then, there's the question of creative license. For crying out loud, we're trying to tell stories without bogging them down in tedious detail. Sometimes, you have to cut someone some slack.
I find if the overall writing, characterization and the story are compelling I'm more forgiving... Except when it comes to certain errors. I'm being completely honest when I say I have my pet things that piss me off more than others, and I think we all do. Just like the reporter who knew first hand, from participating in the Bible John investigation, details that others wouldn't be able to know easily (investigators scattered to the four corners or deceased) I know about arson investigation, and other stuff. If I were writing a review (which I'm not) my obligation is to the reader, not to myself. And does the average reader know? Would they care?
I can be really annoyed about Law & Order's 'Muskoka' error, because inside of a five minute (ten if we're being lazy) google search anyone should know it's not a town. But some of the arson stuff is a lot harder to come by. Should ease of access factor in to how seriously we view the error?
How do you decide when something's just your hobby horse and you're being really nitpicky and should just let it go, or when it's worth holding it as a criticism?