Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I got a chance to read the last few days of posts on the Stiletto Gang this morning. Poor Rhonda (aka the Southern half of Evelyn David) got a book review that was apparently based entirely on the color of Arlington, VA recycling bins and Marilyn (aka FM Meredith) was detailing the reasons she used fictional towns in her work.  Her reasons included the fact that real towns change too quickly. Both posts struck a chord with me since my current series, Tales From the City ofDestiny, focuses on my hometown of Tacoma, Washington. When I set out to write about a real location, I thought it would be easy because Tacoma never changes, right? Boy, was I wrong.

That Tacoma continues to evolve wasn’t so much of a problem when I was writing about Tacoma circa 1992, but the moment I switched to writing a current piece everything went haywire. It seemed like every time I wrote something currently true about Tacoma, Tacoma went and changed it.  Old bridges reopened, new buildings got built, street names changed, the Greyhound Station moved – nothing is as set in stone as I thought it was. (Although, in Tacoma’s defense, the Greyhound Station moved years ago; I just hadn’t noticed.) When one of my writer’s group commented on a recent work that wooden telephone poles were no longer being installed, I had to spend research time figuring out just what electrical wires were being strung on these days. Short answer: Tacoma is still using the creosote treated telephone poles, but her town has switched to metal. And yes, that factoid really was pertinent to the story.  How else is my character supposed to describe the smell of creosote other than “it smelled like fresh telephone poles”? 

So how much accuracy should I be putting in to each story? I try and put in as much accuracy as I can, since I don’t want a recycling bin debacle on my hands, but well, I am writing fiction. Tacoma doesn’t actually have any werewolf cops, fairy shopkeepers, or Chinese brothels being haunted by a Banshee… that I know about anyway. Hopefully, my readers can just sit back and enjoy seeing their town as the setting for a fun story and not nit-pick on whether or not the bar I describe in my upcoming Devil’s Invitational is really Terry’s Office Tavern. It is, for those who like to know these things, but I had to change the architecture for the purposes of the plot – and I don’t think reality should stand in the way of good fiction.


  1. Bethany, I had a similar problem with EVERY BROKEN TRUST. My town is fictional, but when the action goes into Kansas City, I try to make everything factually accurate. But a key scene in the past happened in a certain building with a certain feature (trying to avoid spoilers), but during the final edits I learned that feature had been done away with. Too late to revise the heart of the book. So I put in the acknowledgements at the front of the book that I had taken liberties with that building for story purposes. hey, it's fiction.

  2. just not the one i was looking for, but i enjoyed this review! it's great! thanks for posting!