Math is your friend

Lately I’ve been reading contemporaries, and I’ve found errors. Not grammatical, although there have been some of those as well, but math errors. Many of us authors are older, shall we say middled-aged, and what I’ve noticed is our age peeking through. What I mean is we haven’t been careful with our math.

Math, you say? That’s why I’m a writer: so I don’t have to do math. Not so fast, grasshopper. Math is everywhere, and it’s important to the logic of the story.

Here’s an example. A character appears in a contemporary and likes or enjoys something that they are too young to like. Recently I read a 2011 novel where the 30 year-old heroine blasted Bon Jovi. Now she can like Bon Jovi but some consideration or explanation was necessary to explain her predilection for that particular band. It’s 2011. Subtract thirty years, you get 1981, the year she was born. Most likely her favorite band would be someone she listened to when she was, say, 15-18. Late teens. That’s the band she would rock out to. Someone like Alice in Chains, Nirvana, or whatever . While Bon Jovi was  performing in the 1990’s (and still is), the choice of it still feels a decade off.

Second example: a story from 2012. A seventy-five year old women is described as being cool and calm, someone who wouldn’t even swoon over Valentino. Valentino was a heartthrob in the 1920s. A seventy-five year old would have been born in 1937, after Valentino was dead. Let’s say eighteen again for the age of swooning. That puts us at 1955. GIrls swooned over Brando and James Dean in the 50’s. Or Rock Hudson if you liked the clean-cut type. Or even Elvis. But not Valentino.

I have a third example from a historical manuscript I read. The author made allusions to actors who would have been children (9 or 10) at the setting of the novel. Not good.

So do the math. Really. Even in writing.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Finding Her Son by Robin Perini

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