Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What Would An Archaeologist Say?

You ever have that moment of "fail" when you read a book?

As a former lawyer, I have that moment when books use the law, both criminal and civil. Carlie experienced it recently with soda. I mean pop.

Charlotte's Library just had that moment with archaeology; and henceforth, makes this offer: So I am offering, FREE OF CHARGE, my services. As a professional archaeologist, I will read any bits of your book that deal with archaeology, and critique them as to their portrayal of the discipline. This will ensure that, when I have the finished book in my hands, I am not thrown out of your fictional world in a fit of annoyance. Sadly, I can't actually be helpful regarding descriptions of past people, places, and civilizations (real archaeologists specialize--I'm pretty good with 17th-century northeastern America, and a few other times and places, but know almost nothing about, say, the Incas).

What is your "area of expertise" that results in a "fail" moment when you read?

16 comments:

TadMack said...

Hah! I have a few scenes with speech and debate team in my WIP, and I'm terrified that my "experience" is so old that it will give someone that "Fail" moment. I think it's really best to have someone read work for you in case the author's knowledge is incomplete -- seriously. Most people I know don't skip that step!!

My "fail" moments come mostly in dialogue between adults and kids -- and "hearing" an adult basically condescend to a young person in a novel, and not having the young person call them on their tone, or at least be mentally contemptuous!

--K. said...

Mine is music, but the fail moment tends to occur while watching movies or TV, rather than mid-book. If you don't have an actor that actually knows how to play an instrument, for god's sake don't show a close up of them "playing" it. Nothing takes me out of the story so quickly as someone's hands going down the keyboard as the melody swells upward, or watching a violin bow go skittering across the instrument in such a way that would cause actual pain to the listener, were we to be so unfortunate as to hear the "music" that actor was really producing.

melissa said...

For me, it's history, as I talked about here. When you're writing historical fiction, you've got to balance the needs of appealing to a modern audience and creating conflict within your story, with the actual historical facts and sensibilities. You can't have a woman from 1066 Britain expressing the same kind of opinions as a modern-day girl. So that kind of problem always creates a fail moment for me.

PRHS Library said...

I'm 100% with K. I've watched a couple of movies recently where I've actually been unable to tell if the actor knew how to play the piano or not (either very clever cutting or an actual pianist). I won't see "The Soloist" because I can tell from the previews that Jamie Foxx can't play the cello. Oh, the aggravation!

Mary Ann said...

For me it is local geography, when the details aren't quite right. And I don't mean names but things like how far away the "big city" is, or things that are just slightly off. It is just jarring.

Lisa Chellman said...

My two biggies are dog ownership (dog amputees do not need peg legs! walking one dog is hard enough for a child, let alone four or five! etc.) and librarianship. It really irks me to see negative portrayals of librarians in children's books these days: librarians as shushers, as people who control what you can and can't read, etc. On the other side of the coin, I absolutely love it when the librarian turns out to be a secret ally!

R.J. Anderson said...

My pet peeve is when people get stuff about the Bible wrong. Like the novel I read recently where the narrator talked about reading of strange beasts and terrible angels in the book of John. Er, no. That would be the book of Revelation, thanks for playing.

The sad thing is that it was just one paragraph, and it would have been SO easy for the author to run it past someone Biblically literate to be sure she'd got it right. Though I'm surprised a copyeditor didn't pick it up before it went to press.

Jenny Schwartzberg said...

I was a medieval history major so books set in the Middle Ages that have done no research on what they were really like can drive me up the wall. Books set in historical periods have to be really good to draw me in or to be set in alternate histories or in a defined pseudo-history like Regency Romances. I'm also a genealogist so while I like books that have genealogy and extended families in them, it can irritate me when I see some really dumb genealogical errors. Ancestors for descendants, grr. And as a rare book librarian, I can wince at some of the things rare books are subjected to in novels.... But generally it's a failure of historical authenticity that can throw me out of a book! For that matter I have a little knowledge of archaeology and errors in that area irritate me too.

Susan T. (Chicken Spaghetti) said...

Bad grammar and lazy fact-checking (i.e., errors--especially when it comes to Southern stuff) are always distractions to me.

Jennifer Schultz said...

Anything to do with Louisiana, especially New Orleans and the rest of Southeastern Louisiana. If someone has Cajuns living in New Orleans or a stereotypical "Southern" accent in their story, that's an automatic "fail."

And when "its" and "it's" are used incorrectly.

web said...

Local geography, natch, but my big one is sex/reproduction/birth control. I read a lot of romance and the misinformation found in them makes me CRAZY.

Alex said...

My big problem is language. I'm English/Italian bilingual, and for some reason, writers seem never to use a fact checker to ensure that any Italian writing in their books is correct. Other languages don't seem to have this problem.

mb said...

There were a couple of movies recently supposedly set in Albuquerque that were SO OBVIOUSLY not filmed in Albuquerque, because Albuquerque is quite distinctive and doesn't look anything like Average America.

Abby said...

I had a fail moment recently when reading a book set at the college where I attended both undergrad and grad school. The set-up for the whole plot revolved around something happening in a psychology class that (as a psych major at that very university) I KNOW would never happen.

And I agree with Lisa about the portrayal of librarians. :)

Jennie said...

I'm OK with mean librarians-- I know a few. Also, I'm a shusher. (Well more of an "OIY! There's too much noise!") I am NOT ok with high school kids working the reference desk with no trained professionals (Sarah Dessen, I'm looking at you.)

Also, local geography and culture, which happens A LOT because I live in DC.

But my big fail is China and Chinese language.

Anonymous said...

I just read a book this week where the children in the story were playing the game Candyland, and the author had them "rolling the dice." What???? As the mother of a preschooler, I can assure you from extensive personal experience that there are no dice used in Candyland! Big fail!

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