Monday, May 3, 2010

Getting It Right

I was watching a movie the other night and noticed one of the minor characters dressed for battle at Gettysburg. He was resplendent in his Union Army uniform, right down to the wristwatch that clashed a bit with his saber. It's the little details, like this anachronism, that jerk one out of the moment and start a whole new conversation going: "What were they thinking? Didn't they do their research?"

Granted, this kind of rant is more likely found among the dedicated researchers, writers, and other sticklers for accuracy. The question then, "How do you check for those details?" Sometimes an ort of interesting fact comes to light while you're in the process of looking for something else. It's rather like finding a new flavor of ice cream while you're considering what kind of frozen pizza to buy.

On the plane yesterday, I was skimming through the airline's magazine and picked up a few interesting tidbits. Did you know that stainless steel chopsticks are what many Koreans use for eating? Or that sushi should be eaten with the hands and the chopsticks reserved for the ginger? Or that Emperor Joseon had a standard-sized door for himself but all his minions had shorter entryways so they would have to bow into his presence.

I'm not sure if I'll ever use any of these morsels of knowledge, but they're there if I need them. Of course, I'd need to research them more deeply before they were ready to use. When did stainless steel come to Korea? When did Joseon rule? And so forth.

One piece of information I picked up is something I will use. Himmler used a green pencil. If I hadn't stumbled across that, how on earth would I ever have learned it? The serendipity of the casual observer.


Beth S said...

I don't write historical anything, but I've learned so much from the blogs on this site and want to thank everyone that contributes to it. It makes me think a lot about my own work.

Today's got me thinking about my characters. In a series, if the main character is left handed in book one, she better be left handed in book two. (Okay, an over simplified example, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, thanks again for all the great posts and keep up the great work!

Stephanie Dray said...

It may be that they were writing under deadline and ran out of time! The pace at which commercial fiction is being produced at this time is breathtaking.

YA Librarian said...

Score! I'm not a freak for eating sushi with my hands. Now I can feel more civilized and less like an animal when people give me those looks.

You just made my day!

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