Mr. Ford, I assume….

Here’s a tip for aspiring authors; don’t assume anything! Let’s say you have an oh-so-clever turn of phrase that depends on knowledge of Flemish poetry which you’ve always been passionate about, or a pun in Russian, and you just can’t resist putting it in your writing.

Well, don’t.

When you write something that depends on the reader having the same knowledge you do, you are working without a net, and the ground is a long way down.

Case in Point: I recently gave a talk to an audience of mystery book fans about the Max Hurlock Roaring 20s mysteries. The people were great and very knowledgable, but one woman’s question made me think.

“I read Death of a Flapper,” she said, “and saw that you mentioned three different cars in the story. There was a red Packard, a brown Buick, and a Model T.”

“Yes?”

“So my question is: what color was the Model T and why didn’t you mention it?”

“Uh, well, it was black. I guess I didn’t mention it because they only came in black. Henry Ford standardized the color to keep the cost down. The old joke was that you could have any color as long as it was black. I really should have said that in the book to avoid confusion.”

When you spend as much time wallowing in the 1920s as I do, you forget that normal people might not be up on everything that was going on if they are too busy with other things, like having a life. Don’t assume.

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About johnreisinger

retired engineer and author of historical fiction and non fiction. My current book is Master Detective, the story of America's Sherlock Holmes and his involvement in the Lindbergh kidnapping investigation.
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