Sweat the Small Stuff

I am, first and foremost, a fanfiction writer.  Even when I’m writing original fiction, it’s usually fanfiction of a larger work I’ve not got round to writing yet. The thrill of fanfic, for me, is finding the spaces within the story and filling them. It’s a bit like going on holiday, and wandering the back streets and drinking in bars where they don’t speak English rather than sticking to the tourist trail. The main plot is important, but behind the scenes I can find my own story.

Perhaps because of this, I am a bit anal about my details. Not completely, not to the level of my brother, who once made detailed notes about the real-world weather for each event in his novel and never got around to writing it. But I check routes on Google Maps, research fashion and technology to avoid anachronisms, and build my houses on Sims so I know exactly what I’m looking at. BBC, please take note. (This post will contain spoilers for Doctor Who and Torchwood, and as much of Happy Valley as I gleaned from the promotional material)

There are two egregious research failings in BBC shows that really get my goat. One is a long-running one in Doctor Who, based on the fact that their continuity editor (as knowledgable and picky about it as he is) thinks that if they need to disregard prior stories to make theirs work, they should. If it’s Classic Who that contradicts New Who, I wouldn’t mind so much, but when it’s New Who contradicting its spin-offs…

In Doctor Who, Jack leaves his first greatcoat on the TARDIS. In Miracle Day, he’s wearing it before he’s reunited by the Doctor. In the same timeline, you can see the Empire State Building over his shoulder, despite its construction date being fixed as after that in an episode of Doctor Who. The previous series (2009) Torchwood was disbanded once and for all, and it’s confirmed in Miracle Day. Which is weird, considering that the first mentions of Torchwood we got were an Olympic Opening Ceremony commentator mentioning them in 2012, a question about the institution on a gameshow in the year 500100, and their expedition to the Impossible Planet somewhere around the year 4000.

If I know this stuff, the creators should probably have known it.

Speaking of which, Happy Valley. Happy Valley revolves around a man who sets in motion a kidnapping so that he can pay for his daughter to go to private school, because they don’t live in the right catchment area to get her into a good comprehensive. I was really excited for this show, because I live where it’s set and filmed, and I love seeing my local area on TV.

Unfortunately, I went to school in this area. I did not go to a good comprehensive. I went to the selective state school. One of the two selective state schools in the catchment area, actually. The best comprehensive school in the area is a very good one, and within walking distance of the main character’s address.

Not in the right catchment area, my arse.

It’s not exactly a small detail, because without it the plot doesn’t happen, but it’s something that you’d only notice if you live here or look it up. It’s not the type of show that would generate fanfiction, so what’s the harm?

Is it strange, that I want published stories to have as much research behind them (and not discard it) as I put into my fanfiction?

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4 thoughts on “Sweat the Small Stuff

  1. I don’t think it’s strange as long as you’re not letting “details” stop you from the writing part. I do the same thing.

    • I will even stop watching things with the kind of problems you mention about Happy Valley. I can’t take them seriously if I know the writers are that lazy.

  2. “Even when I’m writing original fiction, it’s usually fanfiction of a larger work I’ve not got round to writing yet.” A perfect summation!

  3. I think it’s brilliant, the more research the more real your stories will feel. Even if you don’t use that research, just having it in your mind as you write will make your writing that much better 🙂

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