Does It Matter?

Zoë Sharp

fiction fik’shen, n an invented or false story; a falsehood; romance; the novel or story-telling as a branch of literature; a supposition, for the sake of argument, that a possibility, however unlikely, is a fact (law).

We lie for a living. We make up stuff out of our heads and write it down in such a way that we hope whoever reads our words comes halfway to believing it’s true. Or at least that it could be true.


OK, on Weird World perhaps.

Playing fast and loose with the truth is all part of what we do. I’m as guilty as the rest. I take fake things and dump them in real places, and take real things and dump them in fake places. Sometimes I take real things and dump them somewhere else that’s real, but just not where they belong. Sometimes, I don’t even realise I’m doing it until a long time afterwards.

When I wrote my first novel, KILLER INSTINCT, I invented a tumble-down hotel, The Adelphi, which was revamped to become a nightclub where much of the action takes place. I describe it on the opening page:

‘The New Adelphi  was a nightclub that had risen phoenix-like from the ashes of the old Adelphi, a crumbling Victorian seaside hotel on the promenade in Morecambe. It had a slightly faded air of decayed gentility about it, like an ageing bit-part film actress, hiding her propensity for the gin bottle under paste jewellery and heavy make-up.’

Entirely fictitious. And yet, I was doing a photoshoot in an entirely different northern town some years later – and I’m talking probably a decade here – when I came across this boarded-up old building. And it was just so right for the book, that it was a spooky experience. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the Adelphi on Morecambe’s seafront, but it was so close it might as well have been.


And then, in HARD KNOCKS, I wanted a big spooky manor house in the middle of a forest in Germany. I invented the place – the little village of Einsbaden, where my equally invented Einsbaden Manor would be located – but I wanted to anchor the place in some kind of reality. I still have a cutting in the HK file of Wannsee, the house where senior Nazi officials gathered to discuss Hitler’s Final Solution. It was the right imposing shape, with a dark past, and it had a flat roof, which lent itself to all kinds of plot points. I had no qualms about removing it from its real location and transplanting it to mine.

I know writers who have no difficulties with using real things in real places, even for the most grisly scenes, but I’m always reluctant to do that. I remember the story about a TV writer who used the registration number of his own car for the murderer’s vehicle in one of his own screenplays. Obviously, he had no objections to this. But then he sold the car…

I remember another author who needed to have her main protag’s vehicle registration in the story, and she deliberately invented a combination of numbers and letters that could not exist, so could never have been given to anybody and cause problems further down the line.

The reason this has been on my mind lately is because I’ve just been off scouting locations for something I’m writing. How far do I go towards keeping it real? And does it matter if it’s not?

I wanted a particular type of mid-terrace house. They don’t exist in the location I wanted to use, but they are more common a few streets away. Moving my protag’s house by a couple of streets is no problem, especially as I only suggest the area, not an exact street name.

I wanted to be able to walk along the river between points A and B. Google Earth shows you can do it. Reality shows it’s gated and securitied up the wazoo, to the point where bending the rules would be counterproductive. Fortunately, an alternative route happens to fit in with the plot much better, as it allows my protag to see something there that will help them later. And there’s the odd burst of humour that I’m sure I’ll manage to slip in somewhere, if it’s appropriate:

Of course, to find this funny you have to look closely at the sign on the wall of the building:

I know these are small details, but ones I feel it’s important to get right. I know most people understand the definition of fiction, but nevertheless I like to blend fact and fantasy and hope that they can’t really see the join.

However, later in the story requires a big public location where lapses in security allow Bad Things to happen. I could use a genuine location, but I’d rather not, and I’m not quite sure why that is. Am I hoping that, by the time the reader reaches this point in the story, they’ll be invested enough in the characters to make the jump from reality to fantasy without a hitch? Or am I just squeamish?

After all, my characters are invented, but the tools they use are not. I’ve occasionally extrapolated something that’s available now and taken it to the next step, as I did with a computer program in FIRST DROP, but I don’t invent new types of aircraft or weaponry – I use what’s already available. Trust me, there’s more than enough out there!

I try not to make unnecessary mistakes with geography, too. I’m still grateful to an eagle-eyed copyeditor who spotted the fact I’d got Charlie Fox riding the wrong way up a one-way street in Manhattan. Not that she wouldn’t be prepared to do that, if the occasion demanded, but it didn’t. When I needed to have Charlie driving from Boston to Houston, I worked out the entire route – carefully avoiding taking her through the middle of NYC.

But still, I’m happy to make up an entire village, or housing estate, if I feel it fits in better with the story I want to tell.

So, my question this week is, how far are you prepared to go in inventing places and objects for your work, and does it matter to you as a reader if you’re mentally following a character through familiar territory, and they suddenly take a turning into a street that isn’t there? Do you notice? Do you care?

This week’s Word of the Week is tartan, which everybody associates with a checked material as worn by Highland clans of Scotland, where each distinctive pattern is the mark of an individual clan; something self-consciously Scottish – hence Tartan Noir for dark Scottish crime fiction. But Tartan® is also a type of all-weather track for athletic events, and a tartan is a small Mediterranean vessel with a lateen sail, while a tartana is a little Spanish covered wagon.

47 thoughts on “Does It Matter?

  1. JD Rhoades

    I occasionally get distracted and frustrated by writers who feel like they have to detail every turning and every subway stop the protagonist took to get from point A to point B. All due respect to our New Yorkers here, but it seems particularly prevalent among books set in NYC. I don't much care that they took a turning into a street that isn't there, I care that there's some reason I needed to hear about the turning in the first place.

    Now when it comes to cool toys and neat gear, I confess that the new one is loaded up with wild tech stuff I found in my reading and on the 'net, because part of my mission here was to have some over the top fun and that stuff's fun for me. But I don't feel the need to describe the brand of gloves the characters are wearing.

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Dusty

    We're back to people writing travel guides rather than novels. A little detail is good – it anchors the story in the reader's mind. Too much smacks of lazy writing.

    And I confess to a sneaky liking for the cool toys, too. I really can't wait to read your next one, you tease you… ;-]

  3. Jude Hardin

    Unless your territory is familiar to a LOT of people, I don't think it matters much. Here's how I get my protag from Florida to Tennessee in my wip:

    *I made it to Mont Falcon at around four in the afternoon. “Town” consisted of a Piggly Wiggly, a Sunoco station, and a motel attached to a restaurant called Moe’s Ribs. I parked and walked up to a swinging glass door that said LOBBY. Patchy remnants of snow dotted the landscape.*

    This anchors the scene, I think, what Alex might call an establishing shot. Everything else about the location can doled out a little at a time. Long descriptive passages bore me, and I don't have much patience reading or writing them.

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    I read a lot of historical mysteries and some of those authors can get carried away with proving their research. If it goes on too long I just skip that section.
    As for locations in general, I avoid books set in Montana. OMG, how they get it wrong. Either we're still riding horses (even in contemporary settings) or locals are a bunch of quirky hicks. Ugh. The closest to reality (and not even set in MT but actually in WY) are the books by Craig Johnson.

  5. Lorena

    I prefer to set fictional towns in real geography, and will do the research necessary to pull it off, but not so much that anyone thinks I've taken a real town and just changed the name. I'm not interested in looking at city maps to get it right on every block. For my WIP, I relocated a real town from one state to another, then had to make sure the important details (in this case, a type of mineral water spring) could be placed there. But since I relocated the town altogether, no one's going to notice if I reorient Black Street to run east and west.

    I think, though, that if you're going to have a real setting, you should keep the details non-detailed, or get them right. I read a book once set in my current hometown, and then had to follow the hero into exquisitely detailed settings that don't exist…such as driving from the prosecutor's office to the courthouse. Please note that they are in the same building and driving would cause more problems than it would solve.

    I guess my rule of thumb (writing or reading) is — it's fiction. But if you're going to make it up, especially if it's a strong element in the book, it's probably best to NOT do the actual opposite of the reality. And I think we (as writers) get more leeway on characters than setting, because people EXPECT us to lie about the characters, but with setting, we're really putting that picture in their heads, and then we go and change it….ever read a book where the author doesn't describe something for several pages, and then they do and it's nothing like the picture you've got in your head? Eek.

  6. Debbie

    Zoë, unless you're kidnapping someone by smashing the window of their car and using a light sabre to get into the car, I think you're safe here! 🙂
    I like relative accuracy but not minute details, unless they are necessary. To establish a characters personality/background in my MS, I mentioned a movie he wanted to see. Unfortunately I also mentioned that it was an anniversary rerelease and locked myself into a specific year and a shitload of research for the back story (most of which does not land in the novel but I needed to know it was accurate(.Discrepencies in novels are sometimes humourous, sometimes distracting, and sometimes it's just nit-picky to mention them. Btw a car brand I alluded to in my MS went out of business this year.

  7. Robert Gregory Browne

    Like you say, we make stuff up. It never bothers me if an author takes liberties at all — until the story starts getting boring and I get nitpicky.

    Jonathan Kellerman set part of one of his books here in Ojai. He invented some things. I didn't care. I listened to the book on audio, however, and the narrator kept pronouncing Camarillo (an area near here) as Cama-rill-o rather than Cama-ree-o, which is proper way to say it.

    Drove me absolutely nuts.

    I set my first book in a fictional city based on Chicago. I had never been to Chicago, so I figured I'd go the Ed McBain route. My agent told me, make it a real city. So, because I had used the underground tunnels in Chicago, I changed the book slightly, set it there and worried that I'd get all kinds of flak for screwing up the facts.

    Fast forward a few years and the guy adapting the book has spent much of his professional life in Chicago. When I went out to visit, I said this was my first time here. He told me he would never have known.

    So I guess I got lucky. Once I got to Chicago, I wished I HAD had a chance to visit while writing the book. There were so many details I could have included.

  8. chris2

    hmmm…now that I think about it, I really don't mind either way, as long as the whole of it makes sense within the story — there are other things that bother me more, a character name that is so unusual or difficult, weird etc., it yanks the reader out of the story every time they come across it — or 3 characters have names beginning the same etc., –so whether or not something is made up is irrelevant in and of itself to me

  9. Judy Wirzberger

    Funny the things that can bother us. A lot, I think, depends on how familiar most of the readers are with the are you are describing. Cara could run on about Paris and I wouldn't noticeunless she put the Thames there. However, I do object to glorious thunder and lightning storms in San Francisco because we have so few of them. However, the folks in Illinois don't know that. Though a friend tells me she gets notes from readers because she has her protagonist going south on an east-west street. I want readers who enjoy the story, who allow me a little leeway, historically and logically.

    That said, as they say, I love reading and suddenly coming upon a description of a place I have been or something I have noticed. I love to see the world and people through another's eyes. However, I do prefer to read fiction rather than fantasy.

    You are a marvelous photographer. Not only can I see the exterior of the Adelphi, but I'm standing at the bar open mouth as Charlie wipes the floor with her attackers.

  10. Allison Davis

    In response to a "white room" comment from someone in my writing group, I've spent the last two days picking out the few details that describe a kitchen in 1958 (metal cabinets, electric fry pan, yellow linoleum floor). I spent way too much time going over old 50's kitchen ads….

    Most of the rest of the scenes are entirely made up – ficticious clubs and streets, public meetings. There's much to be said for a smattering of truth sprinkled among the fiction to help it grow. If you're going to use something people recognize, then you should get it right or it'll distract them from your story, but as Harlan Coben continually says, we make this sh3! up. That's what we do and that's ok.

    It's eerie though when you create a world, and then you see pieces of it in reality. This book is about SF's Fillmore District in 1958, and as I was researching it, someone introduced me to Leola King (to assist her with a pro bono legal project), who is in her 90's now, and was the only woman club owner in San Francisco's Fillmore (they call it the Harlem of the West) in the 50's and into the 60's. Like having a character in your novel show up in your office.

  11. Louise Ure

    I do make up places, especially if something awful happens there. I don't want the owners of the Bay Horse Tavern in Tucson to come after me, you know?

    But the only ones who call me on it are from my high school graduating class. Damn, those guys won't forgive or forget anything.

  12. Dana King

    My rule of thumb is, the more detail provided, the more accurate it has to be. I can get away with a lot in a real city, but if i start to identify the specific streets and landmarks, I'd better have them right, or someone will call me on it.

    I use real places usually, but make places up as needed. For example, in one story everything was real except for the small town outside Chicago, where I wanted to make some disparaging McMansion comments, and the chief of police was bent. So I made up that town.

    I'm currently working on a story that takes place in an amalgam of a cluster of three small towns I grew up in and around. I consolidated them into one, changed the name, created a county out of whole cloth, but stuck with the street names and some place names, so long as they weren't depicted in an unflattering light. For example, there is an Arby's at the corner of Stevenson and Route 366, but all they do there is eat. (And find a clue.) For the sleazy hotel bar where the woman meets a hit man, I made up a name, and was vague enough about the location for plausible deniability.

  13. Debbie

    Rob, audio books are a whole other dimension, don't you find? Somewhere between the author's words, your imagination, and a movie.
    Mistakes? Canada has provincial boarders not state lines. I just laugh to myself and keep reading. I'm in my forties and have only once experienced thunder and lightning in a snowstorm. It stood out as very odd so as long as there's a really good story and not too many major distractions…as Lisa Black said, 'it's fiction.'

  14. toni mcgee causey

    I get really really bored with the Mapquest Novels, where someone feels compelled to give me every freaking step the protagonist takes, to the point where it's "go up the escalator, and then turn left and two more steps, turn right into the…." Too many of those and I'll put down the book and never buy the author again.

    I started out setting the original Bobbie Faye book in New Orleans. Then Katrina happened and so much was gone or was going to change radically, that I felt I couldn't use it. So I moved it back to the part of the state when I was born, near Lake Charles, and then Rita happened while I was finishing, and so many things were gone or were going to change and I thought, screw it, I'm not moving it again. So I left it there and used real locations and directions and neighborhoods where possible and fictional locations where necessary. I moved an entire salt dome a lot closer to Lake Charles than it's actually located (and apologized for that in the author notes).

    So far, the overwhelming response from fans in the area have been about how I really got the area *right*, in spite of my fictionalizing so much of it. I think what matters more is if we get the culture of the area correct, the nuances of the attitudes there, particularly if it's not a big city which can be much more of an amalgam of various cultures that anything goes. In a place outside the bigger cities, attitudes are much more concrete and I think if we capture that, the smaller details of place aren't relevant, as long as they serve the story.

  15. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Jude

    I'm a skip-reader, so I try and leave out the bits I know I wouldn't read. Saves time in the writing, too!

    Like the description of your Florida scene, BTW

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Hi PK

    I can understand the temptation to put in your research when it comes to historical novels. I mean, you need to hit the research books just to get your characters out of bed and dressed in the morning and walk them down the street. It must be very hard to be ruthless and leave all that stuff out.

    If ever I want to set a book in MT, I'll be sure to email you to make sure I don't fall into the cliché trap. Reminds me of going to OK, though. The cab driver who picked us up from the airport asked first if we were going to a dude ranch. No, we said. Well, he asked then, do you have family here? No, we said again. With that, he twisted right round in his seat and said, "Well, what the heck are you doing in Oklahoma?"

  17. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Lorena

    It makes a lot of sense to use a completely fictional town, but if you're going to set a series there, then you have to remain consistent from one book to the next, so sometimes it is actually easier to use somewhere real. Ah, the pull of the standalone…

    In the UK, we have very few towns laid out on a grid pattern (Milton Keynes excepted) so nothing runs quite east to west or north to south. I did read something where a visiting US character went 'north' from Cornwall to London, which I can only imagine came from looking at a map where Britain seems to be tipped downwards towards Cornwall. In reality, Cornwall's in the southwest, and London's in the southeast. Ho-hum.

    Interesting point you raise about the perils of not describing something right away, and risking annoying the reader who has already formed a picture of that person/place by the time you do put some detail in…

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Debbie

    "Zoë, unless you're kidnapping someone by smashing the window of their car and using a light sabre to get into the car, I think you're safe here! :)"

    Damn, there goes the plot of my next book…

    It's weird that in movies they don't worry at all about this kind of detail accuracy, as with the date of your film release in your novel. If you've ever seen 'Black Hawk Down', in one scene there's a guy in a helicopter reading a paperback novel that wasn't out when the movie was set. Such a silly mistake.

    People make car mistakes all the time. I've just been reading two different books one of which contained a 'Ford 206', when Ford is one thing, and a 206 is a Peugeot. The daft thing is, the author didn't need to namecheck the make and model. It was an unnecessary addition. 'A small Ford' would have done. And in the other book, they refer several times to an 'Alpha Romeo' Erm, not an Alfa Romeo, then…?

    Since THIRD STRIKE, I've had Charlie riding a Buell, but since Harley shut them down last year, when that bike gets trashed in the follow-up to FOURTH DAY, I may well give her a Triumph instead!

  19. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    Mispronounciation in audio books is a whole nother ballgame. A friend had a Swedish character in one of her books whose name was Agnetha, which is pronounced Ann-yetta. The narrator pronounced it Agg-neetha all the way through. My own gripes are very small by comparison. The narrator of my audiobook adaptations does a terrific job, but she will keep pronouncing the 'corps' in Women's Royal Army Corps as corpse, and SIG as ZIG.

    And clearly if your Chicago native didn't spot you as a first-timer, you included just the right amount of detail!

  20. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Chris2

    Character names are sometimes difficult to get right, and it can be very annoying if there are too many similar ones. I usually write out a quick alphabet when I'm working out my characters, and strike through each letter as I use it up. I also try and vary the length, shape and endings of names. I read a book a while back where half the characters had surnames ending in '…son' ie Jacobson, Harrison, Jackson, etc. Drove me to despair.

    And I read an Icelandic-set book where EVERYONE's name started with the letter 'e'. OK, maybe it's an Icelandic thing, I don't know, but there was even an ex-pat called Edward, which I thought was just taking things too far. And someone else's book had just about every character's surname that of a crime author, so we had Rankin, McDermid, Rendell, etc. Cute, but totally distracted me from the book and yanked me out of the story every time I found a new one.

  21. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Judy

    This is another advantage of the UK's twisty twiney streets, I think. You can't travel obviously east or west, unless you're talking about a general direction in the country. It just wouldn't work in a city where you often seem to have to drive round and round where you want to go, before you can actually get to it, as anyone who's ever driven round Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham will testify…

    And thank you for the comment about my photography. It spooked me a little when I found this Adelphi, I admit, because it was just so perfect for the club in the book. (Oh, and the move Charlie uses to break up the fight inside the club is absolutely true – you really can dislocate somebody's shoulder that way!)

  22. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Allison

    I think you've nailed the dilemma when you say you've spent time trying to pick out a FEW of the right details to get your 1958 kitchen just right. You need just enough to spark the imagination of people who were never there, and jog the memories of people who were. The difficulty comes when the author picks out something totally inconsequential.

    Sorry to bang on about cars, but so many people get car details wrong – I was reading a very well-known book where the author has his characters making their escape in a Range Rover. Of all the aspects of a Range Rover he could have picked out, what did this writer choose? The fact it had polyurethene rear lights. WTF?

    Nice when reality catches up with your fiction and falls into step, isn't it?

  23. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Louise

    In SECOND SHOT, I wanted to use some real businesses in Boston and North Conway NH, but I asked the owners if it was OK first. Their first question when they find out it's a crime novel is always, "Does anybody die here?"

  24. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Dana

    Sounds like a good compromise, and I agree about the 'more detail/more accuracy' maxim. Besides, there are some lovely bits of reality that it's a shame not to include. Like the fact they have padded wallpaper in the lobby in the Boston Harbor Hotel. I would never have thought to make up something like that.

    And on my recent research trip, I walked through one run-down area and found several abandoned shopping trolleys (carts) from the local supermarket along one of the streets. What a great way for a character to realise there must be a supermarket nearby.

    I only name-check restaurants where I've enjoyed the food, although I did slide in an oblique reference to a hotel where I'd had horrible food-poisoning, by having one character tell another not to eat there.

  25. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Toni

    I think you can get away with a lot of leeway over geography after a hurricane, can't you? "Well, it used to be over there, but now it's over here instead…"

    Sorry, sorry! Bad author, no biscuit…;-[

    As always, you put things so much better and more concisely than I could – or indeed did. It's spot on that if you capture the feel and atmosphere of a place, who cares if there's a pizza parlour where none exists, or a salt dome has shifted a bit? The Bobbie Faye books do really give you the feel of the area.

  26. pari noskin taichert

    Hey, Zoe,
    When I write about NM, I try hard to get it right — and not to do a travelogue AND to give people enough of a feel of the place that it's real.

    Right now I'm working on a YA that, in my mind takes place in somewhere like Bloomfield Hills in Detroit, but I'm not mentioning the place and am unconcerned about making it the star.

    The manuscript I finished last year takes place in Houston — in River Oaks — and I put in some things I knew were true, but didn't get into tremendous detail about where much of the action really takes place.

    What am I saying? I guess that I try to get it right when I feel I need to. Otherwise, making it up is fine. All in service of the story and whether it really matters or is going to knock the reader out.

  27. Alafair Burke

    I tend to use real places unless my instincts tell me it's important to use something fictional. In my next book, I need two locations in the NY area with very different personalities. I made them up but eventually concluded that having fabricated towns in a book otherwise grounded in reality felt weird, so I had to find actual towns resembling the places I had created, then change the geography to fit.

  28. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    What an interesting approach to have a location in mind but not mention it. I'm trying to think of an example. Do you call the Bloomfield Hills location something else in your YA, or just not mention the name of it at all?

    So, what makes the difference to you of when you feel you need to use reality as opposed to a fictional location?

    YAs are a subject all on their own, I think. I'd love to know how different you found it writing that to your crime fiction aimed at the adult market. (And no, I don't use the word 'adult' in a way it's normally linked with the word 'entertainment'…)

  29. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alafair

    When it comes to US locations, I do try to use as much of real places as I can, possibly because I'm aware that, as a foreigner, I could so easily be accused of not taking the trouble to get it right. But as a New Yorker, you have much more of a licence to create something 'in the spirit of', don't you think?

  30. Marie-Reine

    I like to read fiction that is anchored in place, made up or otherwise, expandable or not. I like the area to be representative of reality but don't mind name changes unless they are historic or locally important. I'm not fond of endless description, either. I want the story.

  31. Catherine

    Zoe I've been wondering about this driving south along …whatever street that sometimes comes up in stories. I usually have a moment where I'm reading and mentally note it, as is this important that you've just headed south, will I need to remember this later? I find the, as Toni mentioned, map quest style commentary highly distracting.Actually that's not quite right I find it numbing.It just seems another form of info dump to me and I vague out and skip accordingly.

    I found myself questioning whether it was necessary to explain that a character driving was turning into a street the other day. For me in that circumstance it mattered more because of the act of her turning her head gave her a chance to look once, and see something and then look again, and not see it.

    I'm currently in the midst of trying to work out how much accuracy is needed. I really do think I need to go to this pub at the end of a street I'm using. I may need to delay it so I can sit there on a day where it's sunny though.

    Also out of general curiosity Australia bottles beer in 750 ml bottles as well as long neck beer 375 ml. We call the bigger size tallies. The smaller size stubbies. When I visited America last I don't remember coming across beer in larger bottles. I've not yet made it to England either. I'm wondering if this is a practice peculiar to Australia?

  32. toni mcgee causey

    "When I visited America last I don't remember coming across beer in larger bottles."

    That's because those are called "empties."

    (sorry, couldn't resist)

    I don't think they're common here, though I've seen them.

  33. toni mcgee causey

    What I *do* wonder about, though, is if I name a hang out… a Starbucks for example, and have horrible people meeting there, is Starbucks going to give me grief? That's the kind of worries that make me get a bit more creative and change names, re-design city blocks, etc.

  34. Catherine

    Ha. Yes the empties Toni are possibly one of the common denominators of beer drinkers across the world.

    I get your point with well recognised business names. Although I would think businesses in charge of the supply of caffeine would be a large gathering place for people with a wide range of moods… when you mention horrible you're not just talking caffeine withdrawal are you?

  35. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Marie-Reine

    I'm with you all the way on short descriptions. I think having spent years writing nonfiction to a specific word-count (go over and it was subbed viciously) I like to create a snapshot rather than paint a portrait.

    Or maybe I'm just a goldfish and have the attention span to match ;-]

  36. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Catherine

    I think its a danger when you're writing that you can get very bogged down in getting your protag from A to B. Why not just do a scene jump or chapter break and have them already there? This is why I've come to love short chapters!

    Beer comes in all shapes and sizes over here. It tends to be the smaller breweries who use larger bottles, I've found. I'm told that the reason Budweiser went to long-neck bottles was to stop the beer fitting into a glass in one pour, so the drinker was forced to carry the remainder round with him/her still in the bottle until they'd drunk enough to fit the rest into the glass. This is called free advertising… Cynical, moi?

  37. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Toni

    It is a worry, but don't you think that it would generate far more negative publicity for any coffee shop chain to sue you when they can't really control who comes in to buy their product? Do they vet all their customers, or ask for criminal records check?

    Mind you, although I had a bad guy summon Charlie to a meeting in a genuine fish restaurant in SECOND SHOT, he did make the point of saying how good the food was…;-]

  38. Marie-Reine

    Hi Zöe,

    Budweiser is very regional in what they sell where, here. They actually do sell several large-size bottles– one just an ounce or so smaller than your Australian large. One of my sons says that the long-neck bottle is for keeping the beer cool and bubbly, as you hold it by the neck. My husband says that a real "aficionado" doesn't give it the chance to cool off or lose one bubble.

    Goldfish… hah! I am trying to recover from academic writing, which is usually considered nonfiction.

  39. pari noskin taichert

    I give descriptions a little. I guess I wanted to try something new, to see if I could/can write a story where the location isn't so much of a character as it is in my NM books.

    As to writing the YA — still in process a little — I'm not sure yet that it's in the right voice. Zo, my character (yes . . . I know) is very astute for a 15 year old. But I'm concerned I'm using a voice that's too adult for her. I'm going to look at that after I finish it. . . . which, I hope, will be in the next couple of days.

  40. Debbie

    Wow, Zo that's not what I heard about beer bottles. I was told that in order to get more women drinking beer, they had to get it out of the stubbies and make the bottle more phallic. Hmm.

    As long as I've made the segue, I think moving characters from A to B can be a little like the post about writing sex. If there is character development, a reason for the journey, by all means focus on character and write the scene.

  41. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Marie-Reine

    "One of my sons says that the long-neck bottle is for keeping the beer cool and bubbly, as you hold it by the neck. My husband says that a real "aficionado" doesn't give it the chance to cool off or lose one bubble."

    Hmm, you do realise they're playing right into the beer-loving Australian stereotype here…?

    My nonfiction had to be far more conversational in style than academic, I think. Just ask my US copyeditor!

  42. Zoë Sharp

    Hey Pari

    Best of luck with the impending finish of your YA! Trying something new is always scary, I think – it's like everything you learned over the course of writing other books has no relevance and you're back to square one! Can't wait to hear about your experiences with this.

  43. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Debbie

    Hmm, travel is like sex? My mind just goes off (into the gutter mainly) about sitting in traffic jams, and arriving at your destination and both having a cigarette… Sorry – I never said I was high-brow ;-]

    But you're quite right, like every scene in a book, if a journey doesn't serve a purpose to the story, it's better out.

  44. Zoë Sharp

    Oh, and Marie-Reine – don't worry about the misspelling. I'm used to it. Occasionally people hedge their bets by putting one dot over the 'o' and another over the 'e', or they add a 'y' onto the end. It's just one of the perils of having a weird name.

    I blame my parents…

  45. Debbie

    Zoë, my apologies as well. I'm a do it right away kind of person and usually go strait to the character map to pick up the e with the diuresis. Yesterday I decided to wait until I had my train of thought written out (at which point my mind goes blank(. You can see the result! (Oh, brain clicked on in a positive way too, realizing I could just capture the ë from your name in the blog.

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