1. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Do you fear the nitpickery?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Wreybies, Oct 18, 2016.

    I've run across several articles lately via Facebook that have to do with inconsistencies between actor portrayal vs. character in the book (usually concerning physical appearance) and most recently one concerning the ages of the characters in ASOIAF, and how oddly this would play out if the actual ages mentioned in the books were used in the HBO version of the franchise.

    And this set me to thinking....

    I once hosted a fanpage in the Legend of Korra fandom and was amazed at the demanding nature of the fans. It was only natural that in this fandom much mention was also made of the original series, prior to Korra, and the travesty of a film that was made from it. I understood their disappointment perfectly with the film, but once everyone decided that yes, it was a shit film, and yes, the actors were cast in a very "whitewash" kind of way, then came the irrational demands that Sokka and Katara should be real Inuit actors (ok, cool) with real blue eyes, like in the show. Sorry. Inuits are not a blue-eyed people. And the casting of Zuko was generally well received, but there was much butthurt that he didn't have real hazel eyes, because, you know, hazel eyes are ten a penny amongst actors of Asian descent.

    I've also read, concerning the the Darkover series by MZB, that readers take great delight in pointing out the many inconsistencies from one book to the next concerning timeline of events and geographic placement of places. MZB has declined to ever create a map of Darkover, stating that she knows full well that there are inconsistencies and that readers really need to get a social life if this is what is keeping them up at night.

    From many angles, and for many reasons, it seems that at least some part of any given fandom is going to get their collective knickers in a twist over nitpickery of one kind or another.

    Do you ever give this thought as you write? I ask because since the complaints are as much about film renditions of books as they are about inconsistencies or difficult-to-buy premisses of characters within books (like the ages of characters in ASOIAF), I look at my own work and wonder, "What will they find herein and say, 'What? He's 30? Give me a break, man....'"

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would love to have enough devoted fans for this to become a problem :p

    ... In all some seriousness, I also tend to take inconsistency as a challenge: having to come up with a way to make it more consistent than it appears at first glance.

    Probably why I started writing fanfiction before original fiction, now that I think about it.
     
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  3. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I'm just going to cherry-pick one of your points to talk about because I'm not familiar with either of the examples you've mentioned.

    Recently, I sent a short story to several trusted friends and one of my professors who I see as a sort of mentor. They story was very well received. Everyone had glowing comments and that was really nice. The biggest criticism I faced was NOT mentioning the age of my narrator. And I didn't mention his age for the exact reason you mentioned.

    "What will they find herein and say, 'What? He's 30? Give a break man....'"

    Here's the problem I see with this particular nitpickery. People have different expectations for the actions associated with a specific age. Someone who was a child soldier under Joseph Coney will have much different views regarding what children are capable of versus someone who was raised in Connecticut with a household income over $400,000 per year. I had a child narrator and I didn't mention his age because I knew for a fact that someone would say "oh, a such-and-such year old wouldn't do this." If I leave the age ambiguous, my narrator can't very well be pigeon-holed.

    But because I left his age ambiguous, I got a fair amount of comments regarding that fact.

    Here's my conclusion: It's a lose-lose situation. No matter what we do, someone will find holes, flaws, nits to pick. We just have to write and hope that the majority of readers like the choices we make rather than dislike them. It's all a crap-shoot so I'm learning to bring birdshot.
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I fudged the ages of one of my characters in a series through carelessness, and a reader contacted me about it with charts. "In book 1 it says... In book 2 it says... In book 3 it says... but how can these things be right at the same time?!?" It was weird because it was a contemporary romance series with no fantastical elements at all, but I honestly got the impression the reader thought I was going to have some sort of solution. "Oh, yes, it might appear that way, but you're forgetting about the Sentix Three Time Travel Device..."

    Nope. I just screwed up. I wish I hadn't, but I don't lose sleep over it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2016
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Every day needs one good belly laugh. Thank you for providing me with today's. :-D
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    :superlaugh: it's true!

    @BayView but that's awesome that someone felt invested enough in your book/characters that they'd be offended by it :-D

    Anyway for me, no I don't really think about this. I'm not entirely sure I care, assuming I've tried my absolute best to make it make sense. If still someone finds some hole in it, then well, it's a shame and I admit to screwing up but well, shrug :coffee: And I never picture my characters or the characters of any book I read anyway, so physical consistency isn't an issue with me. If there were fans this bothered by how one of my characters were portrayed in film, frankly I'd just be flattered as all heck :blowkiss: and think nothing more of it! It means I'd have a film and a devoted fan base - who the hell cares about the rest!?
     
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  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I would probably laugh my ass off if anyone nitpicked my work.
    but I get it.
    I think fans can have a better sense of our fiction than we do because whatever they're reading it's not clouded by 1st drafts, other
    ideas, life etc. They're getting the pure product. When I finally complete my stories sometimes I'm not quite certain what's left in them because I still have the
    bits that I cut out swarming around in my head. So if a reader called me on something I wouldn't be surprised.
    I don't really worry about it but ... for one of my stories I made a history booklet specifically for that story to keep track of all the extraneous backstory details.
     
  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a good discussion to have.

    While editing my WIP I find myself occasionally worrying about readers picking up on/ perceiving small inconsistencies and I think this is where the strength of modern writing (and narration in general) takes place- eg, less is more.

    I've seen it in Breaking Bad and I've seen it with Hemingway (and of course Bukowski). At least for me, if the main plot line is strong enough, I will try to solve the small inconsistencies rather than argue their implausibilities, and that makes the work thought provoking. I think if you try to hard to explain away all the potential small inconsistencies, you risk creating a contrived work and or calling unnecessary attention to those consistencies. Worse, you build up your word count. I think there are enough inconsistencies in the real world that it would seem almost unnatural if there none in your stories.
     
  9. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Narrative gaps are a thing and whether or not we accept them depends largely on the rest of the work as a whole. As you said, the overall plot is a huge factor in deciding whether or not we will accept those narrative gaps or not. Not accepting them is also a symptom of overreading. Some people are just hard-wired into reading stories too deeply. Some even look for those inconsistencies because it makes them feel smart.

    I think it's a bit heavy-handed to say that because the real world has inconsistency that fiction should, too. That's a bit of flawed logic. Fiction is not real life. An author is asking people to buy into their world, to care about their characters as if they were real people. It would be a bit of a shame if authors didn't keep their inconsistencies in check. I realize you're not saying we should allow all inconsistency. I'm pointing out that it does require more thought than saying it happens in real life, too. Those thoughts that you mentioned are worth considering, just not worth going overboard and risking the overall work.
     
  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Why should I fear nitpickery? Well I shouldn't. Afterall I am the worst writer here. So if a bunch of accomplished
    writers can tell me that my writing is shit, then someone who does not write will not sting so bad.

    (Yes I know I am not the worst, but I might as well be.):supergrin:
     
  11. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    I hate inconsistencies in a show or book, but only if they make a big difference to the characters or plot. Like, in the book Pride and Prejudice Lydia was the youngest and tallest daughter, but in my favorite movie of the book Lydia was the shortest. I noticed the inconsistency, but it was acceptable because it didn't make a big difference to the characters or plot. If they had made her the oldest, I would've been upset.

    In my writing, I try to avoid inconsistencies, but if they make it past my alpha and beta readers, critique(s), and editor, they're probably not something worth fretting over.
     
  12. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    I'll fight you for that title! :superyesh:

    But yeah, I go a teensy overboard, researching everything and nothing at the same time. I mean my WIP is only set in a mining town but no, last night I had four tabs open on Welsh mining towns and what they looked like at the turn of the 20th century (grey mainly). And then there is probably about twenty more details that are completely wrong. Nitpickers will have a field day!
     
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  13. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    The worst nitpicker is me. No, honestly I don't loose sleep over others when I can easily loose sleep by worrying over inaccuracy myself. I know that there are tons I don't know (and the worst thing is that mostly I don't know what all I don't know), but I see it as challenge - and writing is as much fun as practice, so I simply have to rewrite (and get better, I have not written a million words yet...) when I stumble over one such.

    Yippie-Yay-Yaeh! :D
     
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  14. Zombocalypse
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    Zombocalypse Member

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    Book reading is a different experience than watching a movie. Fans shouldn't be spoiled.
     
  15. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect you're basing that on old black-and-white photos. OK, the local landscape in a mining town would have been dominated by the pits and slag heaps; OK, South Wales is notorious for how wet and rainy and grey it is. But, a beautiful day in Wales is still a beautiful day; the sun still shines; and the distant mountains (and in most Welsh mining towns the distant mountains are no more than a couple of miles away!) are that much greener for all the recent rain.
     
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  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Like others, I'd be flattered enough that someone cared enough to notice these things in my books. :D

    On the other hand, I find it sooo frustrating when people tell me something is wrong when it isn't and it's not because I was unclear. Some people seem to read text that wasn't there, and there's nowt I can do about it. The needs-to-be-right child in me clamours to write back, "No! You're wrong and I'm right and this is why!" but the adult in my stops her, because I don't like arguing with critiquers. I will quietly fume though.
     

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