Sunday, March 21, 2010

When Real Life Changes Your Fiction

This week I was editing one of the last chapters in a mystery novel I started writing about four years ago. This is the ninth draft of the second book in a new series. Book one is currently being considered by a publisher and book three has gone through four drafts. As I began my morning edits a couple of days ago, a terrible realization hit me. I haven’t even finished this draft and it’s already out of date.

You see, in the chapter I was working on, my protagonist, Casey, is driving down a major thoroughfare and has good reason to believe she’s being followed. She’d already placed a call on her cellular to the RCMP corporal who’s been handling a murder investigation. So when he calls her back she picks up her cell while driving and tells him what’s going on. That’s when it hit me. Our provincial government changed the laws at the beginning of 2010, making it illegal to drive and talk on a cell unless one’s hands are free.

This scene made me wonder how many times I had her talking on her cellular while behind the wheel. I did a search and discovered none, however, the situation is totally different for book three, so Casey will have to wear a headset while driving. It’s a small detail, but an important one. And this is what sometimes drives me crazy about fiction.

It takes a long time to write and edit a book, and a long time to get it published, so when it finally hits the bookstore, locales, laws, and technology might have changed to the point where your book is already dated. Writing contemporary fiction means constantly keeping up with change, something that historical fiction writers don’t have to contend with, although they have their own challenges.

Once your book is published, there’s not much you can do. But as long as you’re still editing, the onus falls on you to stay on top of the many changes real life throws at fiction writers because readers do want us to get it right, and who can blame them?

FATAL ENCRYPTION can be purchased at
TAXED TO DEATH can be purchased at


James C. Wallace II said...

I too, find my writing has changed due to a personal situation.
A minor character in my second book, Shadow Demon of Oz, was renamed for our granddaughter and in book three, Family of Oz, she will now play a major role when before, she would not have even appeared in the story.
A personal tragedy which we speak of in other forums;
caused in me a need to incorporate her into my writing.
I couldn't imagine doing otherwise, so I can understand how real life changes ones writing.

Julie H. Ferguson said...

How right you are!

whiteshark0121 said...

I love writing and reading books. I love the notion that people can make things up in their mind and then make them real on a page, for the pleasure or utility of someone else. One of my favorite mentor on learning how to write a book is Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.