They kissed – and then they’re sharing breakfast the following morning. Sound familiar? Of course it does – at least to many of a certain age. Older movies and books left a lot to our imaginations.
That was okay then; we were used to it and easily filled in the rest. We never worried about the missing parts. Now, however, things are more explicit in films and books. There are more details and we look for explanations and accuracy. We no longer find “plot holes” acceptable.
I recently found the following opening sentence at the beginning of a new chapter in a book I was reading: “After his trip he stopped to pick me up for dinner.” What trip? On prior pages, the author never bothered to let the reader know this man had taken a trip somewhere. A minor flaw perhaps; none-the-less, it stopped the flow of my reading.
Similarly, there are numbers – especially, the right numbers! I am no mathematician, but I’m fanatic about matching ages and dates when I read a book. Ages can be tricky and keeping a family tree in a novel that includes various generations is handy. In a book written by a fairly well known author a few years ago, I was informed early on that the main character was born in the year of the Pearl Harbor attack – 1941. This was fine until he celebrated his 40th birthday during one of the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations. Couldn’t be – he was only 35 years old at that time!
While I may dismiss a few grammatical errors, and even read past them, it is hard to overlook inconsistent dates and events. That is where a good editor comes in. Last fall, at the North Carolina Writers Network fall conference, I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by two experienced editors. They pointed out many common mistakes made by writers – especially new writers – and gave us a list with most of the common pitfalls. Prior to this event, and before writing my current novel, I considered the price of hiring of an editor quite high. After listening to the presenters and looking over my own work, I decided that they were worth every penny.
If you cannot afford an editor, or are lucky enough to be married to one, at least have several friends or good acquaintances (preferably English teachers) look over your work; and ask them to be very honest and critical. In return, they might just settle for a lunch out and an autographed copy of your finished book.