Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Simple Change Or Is It?

by Linda Thorne

A friend of mine volunteered to help me with my work-in-progress, A Promotion to Die For. She saw problems and presented suggestions. I can't thank her enough for her advice and expertise.

During this mentoring session, she made an off-the-cuff comment about the inciting incident in my book. She said something like, "You say it happened 29 years ago when thirty sounds better."

This had already nagged at me, but I didn't think I could do anything about it. A Promotion to Die For is part of a series, so my character should age from her age in the prior book. If I changed the murder to 30 years earlier, then my character's age in backstory must change from 21 to 20.

A few possible issues came to mind: 
  • In backstory my lead character, Judy Kenagy, hung out at a bar called Brady's. She can't do that when she's under age? Everyone knows you must be 21, correct? 
  • Her detective friend investigates circumstances around the murder. He considers what a real-life serial killer was doing at the time. Now, I had to look at what this historic serial killer was doing a year earlier and see if that would work in this scene.
  • Characters like Judy's roommates were her age and so were the murder victims. Would I need to change all their ages? 
Here's what I've found so far:
  • I looked up drinking age regulations by state and discovered that 18 to 20-year-olds could drink beer and wine in bars in many states for a long period of time ranging from the late 1940s through early 1990s. Judy Kenagy, in backstory, only drank beer at Brady's Bar and this happened at a time and place where that was legal. I had written about another character in my WIP, an 18-year-old, who was given a stamp on his hand each time he came to the bar. The stamp alerted the waitresses not to serve him any alcohol. That proved incorrect since he legally could've purchased beer or wine. 
  • I looked online to see what the famous serial killer was doing the prior year and found out it was basically the same thing. Only minor changes were needed for the scene with the detective character.
  • As far as matching her age with that of her roommates and murder victims, this seems like a simple task.

I assume the adjustment from 29 years ago to 30 will create the need for other changes, but so far this move seems doable.

I've found that any change to a completed manuscript draft will call for some sort of overhaul. It's important that your changes are thorough and accurate. Readers are often put off when they find an obvious error in historical facts. I know I am.


Zari Reede said...

Great post, and it is something we all struggle with, especially when you are a writing team of two. Sometimes my mind jumps right over a fact that my cowriter has inserted, and we don't realize our understanding of the story is different until halfway through. I wouldn't worry about underage drinking. Sneaking into bars and underage drinking happens all the time, or did many moons ago.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Sounds like work--but you'll accomplish whatever needs to be done.

Linda Thorne said...

Thanks Zari and Marilyn for stopping by. This month I was low on ideas and it was easy to describe what book-writing issue was currently on my mind. I know others go through the same thing with changes, After all, we usually have between 75,000 and 85,000 words to deal with.