I recently watched At the Movies, where Margaret and David discussed the new movie Letters to Juliet. Margaret commented that the characters arrived from point A to B in what seemed like a matter of hours, when in fact it should have taken them days. This fault brought home to me the importance of research and how to use distance into your plots’ timeline.
Some years ago, I read a YA mystery novel (I can’t remember the name or the author), that involved their protagonists traveling from Sydney to Warrumbungles National Park. Immediately I found two glaring faults, which included:
- children under the age of 16 just getting into a car and driving, and that
- driving all the way from Sydney to the Warrumbungles National Park was only a short distance (as I have relatives who live near there, I know for a fact that such a drive would actually take more than six hours).
Looking at my own work, I don’t want to make such mistakes. Going over my novel Deception, I have one of my characters visiting her friends at their homes. I need to ask myself such questions as:-
- How far do the characters live from one another?
- How long would it take to get to each other’s house?
- Are they located within walking distance, or would they need a car/public transport?
- If they live within walking distance, does the time of day make a difference?
- Are there many busy streets and/or intersections, or do they live in a quieter area?
- Are there any particular landmarks nearby eg. parks, petrol stations, corner shops?
As the novel is set in an inner western Sydney suburb that I grew up in, I know it well however, I still need the assistance of a street directory. This would also assist in locating the protagonists’ high school to the local hospital, railway station, etc. All this may sound a bit much, but you owe it to your readers to do your research properly. After all, the attention is in the detail.