I had completely immersed myself ina very nice mystery for kids when I crashed headlong into the following line: “A symphony, that’s what the place is like–a complex Bach symphony that sharpens your mind even if you can’t comprehend every strand of harmony. ”
A Bach symphony? I knew that J.S. Bach had written preludes, fugues, tocattas, oratorios, variations, concertos and orchestral suites. But a symphony? I doubted it. He belonged to an earlier era. After I finished the book, I did a check and discovered that one of his orchestral suites had been reclassified as a symphony. But the character’s words sure implied to me that Bach had written more than one symphony. Sure, his musically inclined descendants had written plenty of them, but I doubt that the author was referring to any of the other not quite so famous Bachs.
Yes, this is clearly a case of Nitz-picking at a comparatively minor mistake that probably would have flown right over the head of a large percentage of middle grade and tween readers. But what was the net effect on me? I lost a lot of trust in the author’s story and wondered what else wasn’t right. I knew from a section in the acknowledgments that this writer had every intention of being meticulous about her setting. Why hadn’t she or her editor caught this problem?
I was pulled out of a different novel when the author set a key scene at the Arch. When I lived in the St. Louis suburbs, I’d gone up to its viewing area at the top at least five or six times with different sets of visitors. His description didn’t fit my experiences.
Now I should not be casting stones because I made an awful soccer mistake in DEFENDING IRENE. It makes me feel sick to think about it even to this day. I’m feeling symptoms even as a type. My only excuse is that I actually thought I’d seen this scene happen on the soccer field, but I must been at an angle that gave me the wrong impression. So I rather hope that the other two authors are drifting along in ignorance. Sometimes it is bliss.
So here’s what to think about as a writer. If you’re not 100% sure of your facts, check them. This is an important way to keep your reader firmly anchored in your reality.