In a day where I admit to loving books about giant killer insect men, I thought it might be good to share something a bit more … sophisticated.
The other day, during the meeting of a writing group I attend, we had a wonderful time picking apart a screenplay written by one of the members. We discussed lots of things — dialogue, setting, and whether a movie should begin with a comedic drowning — but there was one tangent I found to be particularly interesting. Namely, “What is involved in crafting a historical scene?”
Whenever I write, I like to get the details right. If you’re writing a pirate scene set in the 16th century and mention spy-glasses, it’s important to know whether spy-glasses existed. To get such a detail wrong would be a hallmark of sloppy craft. But at the same time, factual obsessiveness can lead to absurdity, like using four footnotes in a paragraph to document Mississippi moonshine. (please, don’t ask). The questions of how to balance good taste with careful craft have been on my mind ever since.
A few days after that discussion, I heard a wonderful interview on the NPR books podcast that addressed many of my questions (in addition to several others). For that reason, I thought I would share the relevant portions here. (They can be found attached to this posting as a podcast.)
The interviewee is David Mitchell, author of “The Thousand Summers of Jacob De Zoet”, Black Swan Green, and Cloud Atlas.