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Know Your Topic
Oh for the love of … if you write about something common from a historical setting that still is used today, at least get it right.
“She stripped rosemary leaves off a plant and dropped them into a woven basket.”
Leaves? Really? Rosemary Sprigs, yes – rosemary needles, yes. Leaves – no.
And in one sentence the author has thrown all cooks and gardeners out of the story. Amazing how simple it is to put in an epic fail into a book. With herbalist ability a popular part of magic and also historic medicines, I would recommend writers either find a Beta reader familiar with the material or study up on the topic.
This goes for all topics actually. A male friend of my mine had the misfortune to write a gun battle where a character thumbed off the glock’s safety. He didn’t know, his editor didn’t know, and his proofreader didn’t know. But his audience let him know loud and clear glocks do not have external safeties.
Another edit I had a person performed CPR on a character gasping for breath. CPR is to start a heart, not breathing.
Obviously a writer cannot know everything they write about, which is why a good stable of beta readers from a variety of backgrounds is essential. The worse things are the things you think you know about, but you don’t or they have changed since you learned them.
Not everything is important to get prefect. Don’t know guns, then don’t be specific about guns. Not everyone is a gun owner. And really in the middle of a fight what does a character care if a 22 or 34 is aimed at them – there is a gun aimed at them. Details really don’t matter.
On the other hand – FOOD – food you need to get right. I have yet to meet a reader who does not eat.
WRITING EXERCISE: This one is a little different; learn something new … not through reading or YouTube. Take a class from a person. The class can be a one-hour course but needs direct interaction with a subject matter expert. Comb through your local newsletter, your town’s webpage, “what’s happening” at your library, the local gardening club, free classes offered at the community college or high school, or other sources and find something you think a WIP character of yours may need to know.
READING EXERCISE: Read two non-fiction books on a subject related to your most recent Read-In-Progress. Examples: Reading about pirates in space – read about Chinese women pirates or Blackbeard; your present Urban Fantasy has Knight Templar, read about them; the mystery centers around monks in an herb garden – study herb gardening. Children books from the library’s non-fiction section have some really good information.