It’s in the Details

Authors are aware that details matter. Incorrect details, no matter how small they may seem, loom large to some readers. However, it’s not just to please readers, but also to satisfy themselves, that writers spend extensive time researching and ensuring that even the smallest detail is accurate.

 A Few Details That Mattered in Child of Desire

  • A major event occurred on the night of the full moon in a particular month. It was important to coordinate the event with the correct date.
  • In the 1930’s, most people who traveled long distances went by train. Old train schedules were used for planning travel for the characters.
  • Easter was one of the special days referenced in Child of Desire. The date on which Easter occurs impacts both weather and events. The Internet yielded a chart that provided dates for past and future Easter Sundays. Assuring correct dates and days for other holidays was also accomplished by using Internet charts.
  • Characters in Child of Desire attended a number of different schools. The existence of such schools in Virginia, Philadelphia and Colorado had to be verified.
  • At one point in the story, a young couple made plans to go to a nearby town to attend a movie. This had to be changed when research uncovered the fact that the theater there opened some years after the dates of the story.
  • When a young child in Child of Desire needed hospital care, Children’s Hospital in Denver, which first opened in 1908, was within a reasonable distance of the setting.
  • The path of the Arkansas River through Southeastern Colorado was determined in order to document that a river ran though a particular town. Old maps were used for this purpose. Maps were also used to verify highways and the locations of towns and cities on or near those routes.
  • Clothing styles and common names in the 1920’s and 1930’s were important when establishing a feel for the historical setting of the story. Much of this was done using family archives.
  • Research yielded the format for the 1935 telegram received by the story’s protagonist.
  • Among other things, the following story “facts” were documented: children rode school busses; one-room school houses were common in rural areas, girls graduated from high school and some attended college; many who prepared for church ministry attended Bible Schools rather than colleges; people canned vegetables and fruits and stored them in cellars under their homes; outhouses were the common small town “accommodation,” the majority of married women were homemakers; some people had telephones, but most did not; doctors regularly made house calls, lower income people sewed much of what they wore; and people in small communities cared for each other during the Great Depression.
  • A chart was created for the purpose of monitoring and coordinating the events in the story. Actions and dates were recorded of this chart. It served as an in-house research tool to confirm that things were “hanging together.”
  • Because multiple activities occurred inside of a home, a floor plan was developed for the house. This plan was used for each scene that took place inside of the house. Below is the floor plan for Sam and Amanda’s church-owned housing in Southeastern Colorado.

  • After the story was completed and had gone through multiple edits, all quotations were checked for copyrights. In order to avoid permissions and fees, only materials not under current copyright were included in the book.

 A Bit of Advice
Once published, don’t dwell on mistakes. Nothing can be changed. The sun will still rise again and most people won’t even care.

“Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery

Research - Just do it.

Happy Writing!

Related Blog Post: Anachronisms and Almost Words


  1. I have read the book. I can attest to the fact that you insured that it "held together.": A few weeks ago, I wrote a short short story in which I had to verify the dates of Labor Day weekend in 1928. I honestly don't know whether the readers care or not, but it was important to me.

    Hmm. That floor plan looks mighty familiar. Maybe I picked it up from my reading.

    1. Vanilla, a person who sleeps in your bed at night was very helpful in the detail department (as well as in many other ways). I especially remember my bad description of a 1930's Ford. Saved!

      The floor plan is a little like that of an Indiana parsonage in which we lived. However, the story plan did not have the dining room or bathroom. The closets I reference toward the end of the story were added in my head when I needed them.

  2. It really grates when one encounters factual errors within a story. An author that described a full moon rising at a time other than sunset ruined a story for me. What other errors was I missing?

    1. Secondary Roads, a lot of errors in a book I'm reading helps me to decide I need to find a new read.

      I enjoy the research part of writing.