Saturday, February 19, 2005

Even the Best Fall Down Sometimes

This entry is meant to demonstrate two important things to all writers. First, even the best, most successful writers make mistakes (I mean, the dumb kind that make you go "doh!"). Second, choosing names for your characters really is a big deal and can help you avoid those "doh" moments.

I just started reading Linda Howard's Mackenzie's Pleasure. And before I go any further, let me tell you that as of...hang 57, I'm really enjoying this story. So this blog is not in any way meant to dis this book, because I do like it so far.

However, I came across this mistake that caused me so much confusion I actually had to reread several pages to work it out. This is one of those mistakes that is so dumb and should have been caught during copy editing. I can't call it a type-O, though, because it happens more than once. This is why I was so confused.

Here's the background. Zane Mackenzie is getting information via a phone call. On the other end of the line are several men of importance (Zane is on speaker phone). One of those men is named Admiral Lindley. He's the one giving Zane the sit rep and issuing orders. Another of those men is Ambassador Lovejoy. He's the guy who's daughter has just been kidnapped and who is hoping that Zane can help rescue her. Keep in mind how similar these two names are because it really goes to show something.

Bear with me while I quote bits of paragraphs directly from my copy of the book to illustrate the problem. I've snipped for brevity:

"Damn it," Admiral Lindley muttered. He was in an office in the U.S. Embassy in Athens. He looked up at the others in the office: Ambassador Lovejoy, tall and spare, with the smoothness bequeathed by a lifetime of privilege and wealth, although now there was a stark, panicked expression in his hazel eyes; [snip]

...Admiral Lindley swiftly weighed all the factors. Granted the SEAL team would be two members short...[snip]

As the admiral hung up, Ambassador Lindley blurted, "Shouldn't you send in someone else? My daughter's life is at stake! This man hasn't been in the field, he's out of shape, out of practice - "

"Waiting until we could get another team into position would drastically lower our chances of finding her," the admiral pointed out as kindly as possible. Ambassador Lindley wasn't one of his favorite people...[snip]

Ambassador Lindley shoved his hand through his hair, an uncharacteristic gesture for so fastidious a man;...[snip]

Did you see it? Did you see how Ambassador Lovejoy became Ambassador Lindley? Not just once, but three times! I was so confused. I knew the heroine's name was Barrie Lovejoy (from the blurb on the back of the book) so I had to read this section several times to figure out that this was a mistake.

Not that this passage is critical in any way to the story. But it did trip me - the reader - up. Big time. So much that I had to reread, and we all know that needing to reread for clarity is right up there with a VCR in a Regency era historical in its ability to yank us out of a story.

My point then, is to show that it happens to even the best. I consider Linda Howard a great name in the romance genre and have thoroughly enjoyed her work. So I suppose I should feel a lot better knowing that stuff like this happens to the Big Guys as well as us newbies. And that no one is ever big enough that careful attention to this sort of detail is unimportant. No matter how big you get - how many hardbacks you have on the NYT Bestseller list or how deeply publishers bow and grovel at your feet - it's the tiniest details that make a difference.

My second point is that from here on out, I will take care not to name any two characters so similarly that such a mistake is easy to make. Ambassador Lovejoy is only a few keystrokes away from Admiral Lindley, and since these two men share screen-time, it was almost bound to happen.

Now, I'm off to go read. Zane has just found the ambassador's daughter and is attempting to get her out of the building where she was being held hostage...

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