Details That Don’t Stand the Test of Time

CindyCarrollEI’m jumping into this writing job with the intention of being a full time writer one day. So I wanted to go back and revise some of the novels I wrote years ago. Those first ones that I wrote before I knew more about the craft. The three historical novels won’t need much fixed in the way of the research. Not much has changed in the middle ages since the last time I researched the middle ages.

I was going through a paranormal suspense that I wanted to finish eventually. It’s a stand alone book so it will be on a back burner until some of my series are well under way. But my writing group was having a critique meeting and the theme was ghosts. This was the only thing I had available that the group hadn’t seen yet so I did a quick read through of the chapter and sent it off.

The story is set in Nova Scotia, Canada. Can you tell what’s wrong with the passage below?

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I’m not sure about other places but here there is no smoking in bars and restaurants anymore. Those once smoke filled places are now free of the haze drifting into the air from everyone puffing away on cigarettes. At the time I wrote that passage I was attempting to show details about the character instead of telling. The scene worked great back in 2000 when I wrote it not so much now. Earlier on in the chapter I also had him smoking in his rental car and flicking ashes in the ashtray. I haven’t rented a car in ages but I don’t think new cars even come with ashtrays anymore.

Thankfully I’d only written chapter one. Once I fix those details that just don’t work now I will eventually finish the book. I had thought about the story every once in a while over the years. There are so many other stories that need my attention but I will finish this ghost story. So many stories to write, so little time.

Have you ever had to revise your story because details just didn’t work anymore? Have you read stories that were written years ago where the details weren’t right now?

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ReflectionsFinal2A road trip without a plan sounded like a good idea when Lena and her friends hit the road. After hours of driving in the heat in a cramped car they’re all ready for something to eat and a good night’s rest.

Reflections Inn looks perfect for the group of friends. A little run down, it hides a supernatural horror. A curse that replaces people with their repressed alter egos forces the friends to fight for their lives. Duplicates who lack restraint, crave gratification emerge from the mirrors. Too late they realize they didn’t know each other as well as they thought.

One by one, Lena’s friends learn the truth about their repressed emotions, their suppressed violent urges.

What doesn’t kill them can only make them stronger.

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About Cindy Carroll

Cindy Carroll is a member of Sisters in Crime and a graduate of Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries. Her interviews with writers of CSI and Flashpoint appeared in The Rewrit, the Scriptscene newsletter, the screenwriting Chapter of RWA. She writes screenplays, thrillers, and paranormals, occasionally exploring an erotic twist. A background in banking and IT doesn’t allow much in the way of excitement so she turns to writing stories that are a little dark and usually have a dead body. When she’s not writing you can usually find her on Twitter.
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12 Responses to Details That Don’t Stand the Test of Time

  1. Fun post, Cindy. I wrote a short story a few years ago and although it had only been a short time ago, the cell phone technology has changed so quickly. My protagonist’s flip phone was already dated. I had her flipping her phone shut after she ended the call but then changed it to just hanging up the phone when I dug the story out and revised it. That way, I was safe no matter what. 🙂

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  2. I’m working on a short story collection consisting of pieces I wrote several years ago. I’m definitely finding details that no longer work so can relate.

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  3. Cindy,
    I have one project that I have been working off and on for over 20 years. A lot of technology has changed. I tried to get around it but finally had to embrace the changes and bring everything up to date.
    Great blog!
    – Stephen

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  4. Joe Stephens says:

    When I first picked my first novel back up after a good amount of time, there were some new things in the world that weren’t around when I first started, like cell phones and tablets, etc. So I had to rewrite the part I had written using that technology rather than landlines and payphones, etc.

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  5. Doris says:

    Fortunately for me, I write historical. However, I can see how details do change over time. Having revisited some older television shows from the 70’s I really see how details to change. Gives one something to think about. Doris

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  6. Great post, Cindy! I have two works from 8 to 10 years ago that I want to re-visit, revise, and eventually publish, so though I don’t think I’ll have much to change as these are non-fiction, I will certainly revisit each aspect based on your post. Thanks for sharing and good luck with all your endeavors!

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  7. katewyland says:

    It’s really difficult to keep up with technology nowadays. Things change in just a couple of years. I had to update my Wyoming Escape book as I wrote it and would have to do more if I revised it. A definite advantage to writing historicals. I’m going to finally start writing again and finish my last book. Wonder what I’ll have to update there.

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  8. Nancy Jardine says:

    I think many little things can change if there’s a time lapse since the initial writing. They do need thorough checking because there’s some reader out there who will be scratching their head in confusion. I’m afraid I think that historical work does fall into the ‘it needs another check’ category because historical interpretation of events can vary quite a bit over the decades as new archaeological evidence may support another theory better than one decided on say 20, or even 10 years ago.

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  9. Wranglers says:

    You may want to look at “Mike gave her grin.” I think if the whole thing is written in the same era you are okay. There are still restaurants that have smoking. We were in one in MO, the other day. Also Ky and NC still have smoking in restaurants. I am thinking of adding a little more to a story I wrote last year, making it into a short novel. Cher’ley

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  10. S J Brown says:

    The solution to the smoking problem is to set the story at an earlier time unless it needs to be current day. You need to ask yourself if removing the cigarettes and the details related to them will harm the story or force you to rewrite large portions of the work.

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  11. Mike Staton says:

    If I were to do a more modern story, I think I’d set it in the 1950s or 1960s, and make it one of those detective stories — lots of cigar and cigarette smoke and femme fatales who are loving you one moment and sticking a gun in your face the next. That way you don’t have to worry about cell phones, tablets, 70-inch HD TVs, no-smoking rules, and kids coming to school packing an AK-47.

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  12. Kathy Waller says:

    Austin doesn’t allow smoking in restaurants and bars either, so I picked up on what was wrong with your passage. I’m in a quandary about technology–I need my main character to be out of touch at times, but with smart phones, GPS, texting, etc., it’s hard to carry off. How many times can I have her forget to charge her phone? Since I can’t keep mine charged, I would believe it, but I doubt readers would. 🙂

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