just the facts, ma’am

As a writer, it’s my responsibility to make sure the things I mention are factual – yes, even in fiction.  And by that I mean, should I decide to write my characters into a known and real city – say, Seattle – then it’s my responsibility to make sure any landmarks I happen to mention are for real.

If I write that a character drove north Aurora avenue a left on Westin, any readers familiar with the area would throw the book across the room in frustration – because they’d all know taking a left on Westin if heading north on Aurora is physically impossible – and would land me on Alaskan Avenue below, if I was lucky enough not to roll into the bay itself.

We can make up a city name that doesn’t exist, and have carte blanche, but you pick a city that you could have readers in, and you’d best watch what you’re saying.  I can’t write a character in New York with any real confidence, because I’ve never been to New York. So if I did, I’d have to avoid mentioning directions or places or even the attitudes of folk on the streets. 

And you can always tell when a writer is faking it, relying on the stereotypical scenario they’ve seen already on television.

Today, surfin’ the internet during lunch, I happened upon this tiny little blurb – a description of some new Fall show on one of the big networks.  The innacuracy didn’t make me laugh and nod knowingly at what we all know is Hollywood stupidity – no – it got my blood boiling.  Is it seriously TOO much to ask a television writer to at least do HALF as much investigating into the facts? 


Here’s what it said: “Harper’s Island” is directed by Jon Turteltaub (“Jericho”) and takes a heavily serialized look at a group of wedding guests terrorized by a killer on an island off the coast of Seattle.”

Off the coast of Seattle.

1) Seattle isn’t on the coast. In fact, from just about anywhere, to get to the COAST of what I presume they mean the ocean, will be another 2 hours in the car. Yes, we have a bay, Seattle is on the water, but that’s inland waters.

2) There are no islands off the coast of Washington. Sorry, dude.  So you’re making one up, I can forgive that – but keep in mind, please, that the cluster of islands we’re going to assume you mean are called the San Juans. Half are USA, half are Canadian. And they’re not “off the coast of Seattle” either. They’re nestled in the inland waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

3) We have no sharks here. I just know they’re going to show warm sandy beaches, and talk about danger in the water.  The only danger in the water here is freezing your balls off.

Gawd – this reminds me of that show Frasier. No where in this entire city is it possible to have that view out his window.  The Space Needle isn’t right downtown, it’s off to the side, and it’s a hell of a lot smaller than the majority of the office buildings.

You’re right – it really IS too much to ask.  It’s just a Pet Peeve of mine.

And everyone else who lives here.  sigh

One thought on “just the facts, ma’am

  1. I so meant to post this comment days ago. On the last episode of Supernatural, the little blurb my mom was reading online said that after blah, blah, blah happens the two lead dudes must race to New Harmony, IN to do blah.

    New Harmony being my current residence we were wondering what they would show. It’s a historic tourist town, so there’s plenty of info out there about it. Because I am having issue with my satellite dish and local channels, I told Mom to tape it for me so I could watch it. I’ve yet to see it because Mom had recorded something else that she wanted to watch first.

    But what she tells me is that the scene they flip to is this mailman delivering mail in this little cul de sac. Which has her bursting laughing. New Harmony does not deliver mail to the street. All residents are assigned a PO Box to handle mail. There are maybe two cul de sacs and they are deeply hidden in town. So it was all wrong.

    I can’t wait to see it and find out what else there is. It’d be nice to see something done right.

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