Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's All in the Details

I have been accused not being able to see the forest for the trees-- getting so wrapped around the details that I miss the big picture. But really, is not being able to see the forest, worse than failing to see the trees? Even bad trees?

I was watching the latest episode of my current favorite television show, "Friday Night Lights", when one of those pesky details moved in and almost stopped me from enjoying seeing Tim Riggins in football pants. And missing that would be a crime, especially since Tim graduated from Dillon High last season and I didn't expect to ever see him in football pants again

Anyway, Principal Tammy Taylor's secretary was verbally relating a whole string of phone messages to Tammy, working up to the one that really mattered, which I won't go into here because it's the forest, and the tree stopped me from thinking about the forest.

The secretary opened her mouth and fired off this tree: "The PTO meeting has been changed to Friday, the twenty-eighth."

What is wrong with this picture? In case you know nothing about the show, it's about high school football in a small Texas town—hence the title "Friday Night Lights". I have never known a PTO that met during the day—committee meetings certainly, but not the whole PTO. You just can't have a PTO meeting on a Friday night in the fall because that is game night.

But let's just say for the sake of argument, that Dillon High's PTO does meet in the daytime—though I don't know when that would be since the "T" stands for teacher and the teachers are teaching class. Even during the day, there are pep rallies to attend, hair to get done, clothes in team colors to press, and somebody's got to take the team's lunch to the locker room. Usually, those who are willing to do that are also faithful members of the PTO. I know all about this. My godson, Precious Angel, plays football and we don't even live in Texas.

This editorial faux pas did not ruin the episode, but it certainly did distract me.

Keeping up with the details in a story can be scary. I recently fed a bagel with peanut butter to our hero, who is allergic to peanuts. I caught it on the read through before I sent it to Plotter, but I did own up to it.

"I fed Luke peanut butter," I told her.

"We did not plot a medical emergency for Luke," she said, thinking I had, once again run off into the Twilight Zone without consulting her.

"No. I changed it to cream cheese, which hurt me because I don't like cream cheese."

"Luke can like things you don't," she pointed out.

That's true. But Dillon High School cannot have a PTO meeting on a fall Friday.

Can a detail ruin a story for you?


  1. Yes, the forest will come crashing down if I get stuck on one detail that isn't right. After all the devil is in the details...

    I barely watch TV any more except for "Supernatural" - God I love those guys! Most of the cop shows and doctor shows turn me off. Being a lawyer married to a doctor, well, I see so many mistakes I just want to do the Elvis thing and shoot the television. That could get expensive!

  2. Cheryl,

    I am thankful I don't know more about those things. I feel sure most of what happens on "House: would never happen. Eloisa James has a "Mia Cuppa" section on her website where the lists mistakes that people find in her books. I have read all her books and these errors are so minor that, most of the time, I haven't noticed them.

    It's the glaring ones that send me over the edge!

  3. I don't know a lot about much, so details only get me if I know a little about something. ;-)

  4. Okay, medical emergencies are never planned. That's why they're emergencies!!

    ~says another pantser~

    Errors bug me, but they don't stop me unless they're really bad. (and I'm feeling more forgiving these days since I found out I have an error in one of my books... oops).

    It also depends on how important it is to the story. The book I was reading where the hero's ex was a ballet teacher who went on and on about "Toe Class" and "Toe Shoes." I'll give her Toe Shoes because I'm generous, but Toe Class? It's pointe, but it struck me because I know more about that subject than I'd like or is healthy. But it wasn't essential to the book, so I rolled my eyes and went on.

    The book that had an entire plot rotating around an error? My suspension of disbelief isn't that good...

  5. Thanks for supplying a picture of Taylor Kitsch!!! ;)

    I agree with you, Panster. A PTO meeting wouldn't happen on Friday night. I've never heard of one being held on a Friday as it is the hardest time of the week to get parents to attend. And on a football night in Texas? It wouldn't happen in Alabama! LOL!

    This kind of stuff trips me up and I'm always very careful not to err when it comes to research. The problem, however, is that the person doing the research is dependent upon a good source, especiallly with historical research.

    I guess if Eloisa James can make mistakes, I should cut myself more slack. But as an historical writer, I quake at the thought of slipping up.

  6. Kim--If Luke had told me he was going to eat peanut butter, Plotter would have let him have a medical emergency. However, in this case, all he told me was he wanted to go for a run and he needed something to eat first. Pantster giveth the PB; Pantster taketh away.

    I agree that the worse the error, the bigger the distraction. I would think a Google search and three minutes would tell what a ballet class is called.


    He is nice sight first thing in the morning, isn't he?

    If we write enough words, I suppose we are going to make some mistakes. Let's write those words and hope for the best.

  7. Ok, I guess I need to work on my detail detective skills. The PTO thing probably would have went right over the top of my head unless they made a point of it interfering with the game. Being an avid football fan, I would have noticed that. :-)

    The thing that really bugs me more than anything is hair color. Not mine, the heroine's. Well mine does bug me, but that's another story. If the cover model has a different color hair than the heroine in the book...it drives me nuts! I can't seem to get over that particular error. Oh well. Moving on. :-D

  8. It's only the things I know that bug me. Military details. I can forgive mistakes in a great story though. Suzanne Brockmann writes fabulous suspenseful stories. Years ago, when she first started writing her Navy SEALs, she made quite a few mistakes. I cringed, but the stories were so good it didn't really matter. It's only people like me who notice.

    Like Kim and ballet, or Cheryl and legal/medical stuff. When you know a lot about something, mistakes bug you. Otherwise, I think most people just skip right over it.

    The PTO thing wouldn't have even registered on my radar. And even when you explain why it's a problem, it's still a shrug for me because football has never, and will never, be a big part of my life. I tolerate the NFL for the hubby. ;) I know that's sacrilege in the South, and yes I am a native and not a transplant. I just didn't get the football gene.

  9. Lynn--I do understand. Baseball is revered almost as much as football and I'd sooner scrub toilets than watch it.

    Everything is relative.

  10. Sherry--Your way it probably best. Just go with the flow and enjoy--unless it's your work. I'm going to give that a try.