Tag Archives: tulsa

The biggest mistake fiction writers can make

See if you can find the mistake in the following paragraph:

A tall man walked out of his hotel and into a bar across the street. He was stopping in Tulsa overnight to get some rest on his long journey to Alabama to see his dying sister. He sat at the bar’s counter and ordered a gin and tonic. The World Series between the Braves and the Yankees was playing on the radio. It was October of 1957 and once again the Yankees were playing for the title. The tall man hoped the Braves from Milwaukee, a blue collar middle American town, would thump those damn Yankees.

The mistake, assuming there is only one, is in the bar. The man could not have ordered a gin and tonic in Tulsa, or anywhere in Oklahoma, for they never ratified the 21st amendment to the Constitution ending prohibition in 1933. In fact, prohibition was in their state Constituent prior to the 18th amendment that banned alcohol sales and consumption (as the country winked). Oklahoma was a dry state until 1959. As the great humorist Will Rogers said, Oklahomans “would vote dry as long as they could stagger to the polls.”

This is important to fiction writers because you can never, ever, not once, assume. When you do research every tiny detail is huge. Readers in Oklahoma who know their history will call you out.

In my e-novel “Loonies in Hollywood” I have my two main characters in a car tailing another car that previously was tailing them. I did not look at just any map, I looked at a 1922 map of Los Angeles and Hollywood. I did not want to make the mistake of naming a street that in 1922 may have had another name in 2013. Street names get changed from time to time. Did I go overboard? Probably, but I want realism in place and setting. If the characters go into a restaurant or nightclub, I want to know who owned it, what went on there, who were the customers. It has to with the ambience of the scene. If you want the past to come alive, you must dig into the past and find out what is there and how to present it best for your story.

I read in another blog that a writer had made the mistake of saying a revolver had a safety, and the blogger said that revolvers don’t have safeties. Did I take her word for it? No, I try not to take everyone’s word for anything. I do my own research and a I found that it is rare, and if there is a safety on a revolver, it is a grip safety. Do I take his word for it? No I keep researching, getting as many views as possible. 

I have probably made some errors in my two, soon to be three, historic e-novels, but I did the best I could. And I love the research. It is amazing what nuggets you can find.

And if you think I made up the Oklahoma story about remaining dry until 1959. Here is a link. Always check what someone says. Did I mention that?

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