Saturday, June 26

Creative License

I'm always fretting over whether what I write in my novels has any plausibility. I'm a firm believer in writing what interests you, not what you know. The two aren't always mutually exclusive but in my case they most probably are.

I'm drawn to write about places and eras and professions I know next to nothing about. What strikes my fancy doesn't often strike my area of knowledge. I try to research what I can, utilising search engines and the odd book, but I often feel that if I were in the place I want to write about it would come more naturally.

Living in New Zealand I grow jealous of the people who live in the places I want to write about, and of writers who frequent the areas of their stories. I think, They must have such an easier time making their stories plausible.

I often wonder when reading books just how accurate the details are. I have no way of proving otherwise but I've always worried that someone who knew something I wrote about better than I did might turn around and go, "That's rubbish."

Just in these last few days I've had an interesting opportunity. I am currently in New York City and have recently finished reading the book 'Godmother' by Carolyn Turgeon which is set in...New York City! The author lives in NYC and it shows in the book as a lot of the streets are mentioned.

Here we have an author living in a city, knowing the city, writing about the city. It wasn't until today (well, Friday NYC time...I'm writing this well after one in the morning) that I took a gander inside one of the depictions in the novel.

There is a chapter in 'Godmother' where the main character, Lillian, visits The Frick museum. So what did I do? I went to The Frick, book in hand and scoped it out for myself.

So here's the skinny... I managed to find a painting as close as possible to the butter-colored harbour painting described in the book and of course saw the fountain in the Garden Court with the tall bronze statue, but here's the thing...

This author had me trudging around The Frick looking for a stairwell that led downstairs to a cluster of rooms with paintings of fairies. Unless I am extremely ill-sighted (after circling the building over and over) there is no downstairs at The Frick. There is an upstairs, but that is closed off. I felt like one of those fanatics who is found lifting up rugs to find secret passages in museums after reading The Da Vinci Code. Who knows? Maybe I would be one of those enthusiasts if I'd actually read the book. I'm obviously keen for it.

So I've learned a little something about creative license and an author's ability to slip something fabricated into a real setting. Sure, you might get critics saying, "That doesn't exist!" but then, you can always get your kicks out of the clueless people wandering around looking for your fabricated holes in reality.

I think I will return to New Zealand with less of a pouty nature about not living in the setting of my novels. After all, that is what imagination is for.

Ain't nobody gonna rain on my creative license!

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