All writers make mistakes, much as they strive to avoid them. I have certainly been guilty of a few in my books over the years. Very often the mistakes are of trivial significance – I know one eminent writer who confessed to me that he kept forgetting the colour of his hero’s eyes, and therefore changed them from one book to another. This kind of thing may irritate some readers, but it hasn’t harmed that author’s high reputation at all, thank goodness. His view is that story is more important than pedantic accuracy, and I agree.
But there are limits. I read a new book recently that contained mistakes and implausibiliites so significant that they did spoil my enjoyment of the story. It was a pity, because the book and the author seem to me, in many ways, to have a lot going for them. The story was one I really wanted to like. But it contained a key courtroom scene that struck me as so hopelessly unbelievable that I lost faith.
I wondered if this was partly because I’m a lawyer, and people with specialised knowledge often become frustrated when the exigencies of the story take precedence over factual accuracy and credibility. Novelists have to cater for the majority of their readers, not just a niche audience. But I don’t have any expertise in criminal law and procedure, and I’ve certainly never attended a major trial.
On reflection, it seemed to me that what happened in that courtroom would strike most readers, not just me, as implausible. A shame, because this was a book with real potential which, ultimately, didn’t work for me. So because I don’t like writing negative reviews, I’m not going to say any more about it. Especially as I feel pretty optimistic that the author is good enough to get it right next time.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Posted by Martin Edwards