Tuesday, January 19

Details, cowboy!

Cowboys in romance novels.

Often one of my major pet peeves.

Not the cowboys I love them. I love horses, and cattle, too. And good working dogs. Nothing better.

Which is part of the problem.

Let me explain. I'm the daughter of a true, old-time cowboy. One of those types who doesn't cuss in front of a woman. I know every kind of cowboy-- from cattle ranchers to rodoe cowboys, and everything in between.

So, what's the rub with reading about the men I love? I should love books about them.

I usually don't.

So many authors aren't ranch-savvy, and it often shows.

I recently critted a full ms written by a friend. Set in Wyoming, the heroine was adopted by her grandfather, a rancher. The details were exquisite. The author, a non-rancher, had done her research. Her setting was correct. Her horse details, except for one minor point, were correct. Her cattle details were near perfect. For me, it added to the enjoyment of the book. I wasn't cringing every other page because she had written every cliche out there.

On the other edge of the spectrum came from a recent contest entry I judged. Cliche? Every single one. Horse and cattle details bordered on stupid. I won't go into specifics because I don't want to embarrass the author. But if I had picked that book up in a store, I wouldn't have gone past page one.

Sure the book may sell. It may even become a bestseller. But there are a lot of readers out there who know most cowboys say rope or lariat instead of lasso.

It matters to me to be accurate. As writers, it should be our duty to be on top of the details. It's part of the deal. Don't be lazy, and assume if you've heard it, it must be correct. Take the time to look up the facts.

I'd like to know what bugs you when a writer doesn't do her research? Sailing? Cooking? Dancing?


  1. Lack of details in general bugs me, D'Ann... As a former reporter I know a little bit about a lot of subjects - my husband calls me a fount of worthless information! - so reading about a hero who is rehabbing a shoulder injury by lifting weights bugs me. Reading about a journalist who breaks the law to get a scoop bugs me. Research may be the bane of our existence but a little research goes a looooooong way!!

  2. I might like accuracy, but I can't spell for shit!
    Oh, the irony!

  3. I have another friend who is also a journalist, Kristi. She lives and breathes details. I can't imagine someone in your (and her profession) not being irked by the lack of facts in some books.

  4. Sometimes a single mistake will make me throw down the book. I read a book many, many years ago in which the heroine, who was a large animal vet, told her friend that she had to go breed a herd of cows. The book went bye-bye. Vets don't breed cows. If the farmer doesn't do it himself they use a breeder. And there is no way a whole herd of cows would be in heat at the same time.
    On the flip side, making mistakes is one of my biggest fears. I almost made a blunder when my editor noticed my hero wearing a black, Fish slicker. She asked me to double check since yellow is color associated with a Fish. Well, black was an original color, but I almost messed up the date. The Fish didn't come out until 1882 and my story took place in 1877.
    I spend hours doing research, but I'm sure I've made many blunders. I hope my readers forgive me.

  5. The devil's in the details. One of my professor friends quotes that all the time. But hey, what a great way to learn new stuff eh? I've learned a ton about rock climbing and parasailing, how to say oh hell in italian, and yes boss in greek. people are incredibly helpful when you're asking for information, sometimes overly so! Research, research, research!


  6. I think it's annoying when mistakes are made in subjects you know about. As you've said, you know about cowboys, ranches etc. and Kristi knows about ... well, all sorts :-)

    I'd hate to read a book about a lawyer or nurse (some of the things I know about!) where the facts were wrong.

    And as Kathy said, researching when writing a historical is a definite must.

  7. Oh this is something that bugs me so much that I won't read a book where the main character is a nurse. The biggest cliche is the nurse and the doctor in the supply room at the hospital. Or the nurse who falls in love with her patient. When I first graduated from nursing school, I thought I'd love reading about nurse heroines. I got over it quick.

  8. I once had an editor question me (*really* question me, as in, I didn't know what I was talking about) over some police information. I'm an ex-cop and my points in the book were correct. She insisted I was wrong, however, so that was not a positive experience!

  9. Thanks for commenting, everyone!
    I think whatever your area of expertise, it is very irritating to not read correct info!

  10. I so agree. For me it's fireflies in the northwest, people who say Oregon wrong--usually in the movies or on tv--, and writers who'd think Seattle could only support one hospitals (Gray's Anatomy).

  11. I do my research when writing because the last thing I want is to find myself with egg all over my face. However, I do take creative license when necessary. The real thing that bugs me on television and in the movies is the courtroom scenes. The attorneys walk right up to the jury and to the witness box, get right in their faces. I'm not a lawyer but that drives me nuts. I also hate it when the TV cops say the word "perps" because they actually call them subjects. I'm not a cop either but have a friend who is an ex-cop.

    Also, PI's breaking and entering...


  12. I hate reading medical romances. I also hate when the author says"Nurse Jean Jones"since no one ever refers to a Registered Nurse like that. While an MD and RN might step into an empty room for a quick kiss, guess who would get fired if caught? That's just so unprofessional. I once had someone grade me down on a operating room scene. They insisted that no one had a mask on the patient's face. They always had a tube in the mouth. Afterall, they'd seen it on TV. I was astounded as that was my area of expertise.

  13. I hadn't ever thought that much about medical romances, but I see now!

  14. To be or not to be fiction--that is the question I'm sure many writers toy with. Many novices feel that fiction is non-fiction, so they can write anything they want. The more seasoned writer KNOWS you better get your shit straight as faux pas can put your book in the next yard sale unread.I think many times writers don't want to take the time (and it is consuming) to research or they don't know where/how to research. Guesstimating, I probably spent two years reading and researching for my novel. Not that it was complicated, but I wanted my facts straight. A former cowboy read my book and liked it and said I knew what ranching was about. That one compliment had me shining like a baby's butt. So does it matter? You bet.

  15. Oops! That line should read . . .
    think fiction is fiction therefore anything goes. Yikes! talk about accuracy.