Hello everybody! I'm not at home right now. I'm having a mini vacation which ends on Thursday, but I'll give you more info on that in my next post. I'm currently using the computer in the hotel's boardroom. It has extremely tiny type that I have no idea how to change, so I hope I don't make any spelling mistakes in the following, well, 'essay'. Let's just say that this is probably going to be a pretty long post!
There was a brief tempest in a teacup recently due to comments made by readers after I posted Chapter 17 of A New Day, and these comments got a little heated. (To "The anonymous one": your impulse to defend me was very sweet. I know your heart was in the right place. But thank you so much for coming back to apologize to totally4ryo)
I would just like to remind everyone, for future reference, to please play nice on my LJ. I honestly don't mind if someone wants to offer a criticism of my work, as long as they do it tactfully. I'm a pretty resilient person, but everyone has feelings. I’m very open to suggestions and discussion and you are all welcome here as long as you show respect to me and each other. In other words, no yelling, hitting, or biting! And keep the snarking toned way down.
Today's two topics are the non-NYC street names I'm using and also the non-standard shift times that I have the detectives of the 27th precinct working in my FAKE fanfiction. A native New Yorker, totally4Ryo, has pointed these two things out to me as adding a jarring note of inaccuracy to A New Day. I responded to her post directly, but as I had so much more to say, I decided to do a separate post that is addressed to everybody. Please accept my apologies in advance concerning the appalling length of this post!
I know and accept that imprecise details can be annoying and may in fact interrupt the flow for the reader. I'll confess that I even found it hard to enjoy the original FAKE by the wonderful Ms. Matoh at first because of all the inaccuracies. But I came to love Dee and Ryo so much that I eventually was able to overcome them. The story and the character development ultimately meant more to me. Like me, Ms. Matoh had not been to New York at the time she wrote FAKE. Unlike me, she was hampered in her research by a lack of English. But neither of us was able to go there and really get a feel for the place. I live in western Canada, about 2500 miles from NYC. Someday I'll go there, but not this year.
Contrary to what some people may believe, I did actually give a lot of thought to the two issues of street names and shift times. The first time I needed a street name, I went online and looked at several NYC maps thinking I would just pick one and that would be that. But I quickly realized that it wasn't going to be that simple. If I can make the understatement of the year, New York City is a huge place and a map can only supply part of the information. I didn't know which streets were one way, which streets don't permit left turns after 3 pm, which streets don't have parking, which streets are industrial, residential or slum areas, nor do I have any idea how long it would take Dee and Ryo to drive from point A to point B. I realized I would need to know a little more about traffic patterns too. For example, would Dee and Ryo take a street I had chosen for them to go home during rush hour if they knew it was going to be stop-and-go traffic, or would they take an alternate route? In my own city, I know the traffic patterns. There are certain streets in MY city you wouldn't catch me dead on at 5 pm on a weekday. There are all kinds of things about New York that I know I don't have a hope of accurately portraying. I'm sure if I went there on a vacation I would come home with a better sense of the spirit of NYC, but I still wouldn't have acquired the practical knowledge that comes from actually living in a place.
Sanami Matoh wisely refrained from using street names. Whenever she had to mention a street, she used one of the numbered ones. I considered doing that too, but decided not to because those streets exist and are on record and it would be easy for me to refer to them incorrectly. Finally I decided to just pull streets out of my head to go with the other places that don't exist. The 27th precinct is not a real place, at least not according to the list of precincts I'm using. When I had Dee and Ryo visit the Bronx precinct that the staff of the 27th spent time at after the original 27th was blown up, I chose to call it the 51st precinct precisely because that number wasn't on the list; like the 27th, it also doesn't exist. Sanami Matoh had just labeled it "Bronx Station". I'm pretty sure that the other places I've mentioned in my story are also not real, such as Freddie's Market and the Westington Hotel. They came out of my head, but there could conceivably be places with those names in New York! I hope not. I always do brief Google searches before I name a person or a place just to make sure there isn't already some well-known person or place by that name. I don't want to get mail from anyone saying, "Hey I work on the front desk of the Westington Hotel in NYC and it's a respectable place, not some scuzzy junkie rat-hole! And furthermore, I do NOT drink beer on the job! I demand that you change the name in your stupid story!" Furthermore, if I choose a real street to put my imaginary places on, I could get mail from New Yorkers saying, "Hey I live in New York and there's no police precinct on that street. Why don'tcha do a little research?"
So the final verdict on the street names is that I WANT them to be unreal. This way, even though I'm still not able to please everybody, I believe the use of imaginary streets will keep my traffic and locational inaccuracies to a minimum.
Now, on to police shift work start and finish times. Totally4ryo pointed out that police detectives have two shifts: 8 am - 4 pm, and 4 pm to 1 am. Back when I was trying to find out about shifts, I had a heckuva time locating the information I needed on the internet, and wasted a lot of time at sites that didn't have the answers I was looking for. Shifts seem to be different for different police precincts around the state, and there are even some differences among the different detective bureaus. Ultimately, I did phone one of them in Manhattan and got the information that police detectives work 8 am to 4pm and 4pm to midnight, as well as a midnight to 8 am shift for detectives that they call "Night Watch". The third shift is also canon, and I think I've mentioned before that I'm very canon-oriented.
Unfortunately, by the time I got that information, I'd already written and posted "Keep It Down", my very first Fake fic, in which I had established that Ryo gets home in time to have breakfast with Bikky. I believe schools in NYC start between 7:30 and at 9:00, depending on the school. I chose an 8:30 start time for Bikky and if he only needs 30 minutes travel time to get there, then he'd have to be out the door by 8. If the third shift finishes at 8, then Ryo wouldn't have enough time to get home to be with Bikky, and I wanted to keep that element of my "Fakeverse". So I took liberties with the shifts and didn't change the ones I had already established. Apparently, there are over 3000 police detectives in NYC and if any of them read my story they'd probably snort in disgust about the shift times. That is, if they weren't snorting in disgust about all the graphic gay sex, which let's face it, is not everybody's cup of tea!
When I write about Dee and Ryo's exploits in New York City, I'm actually picturing places that I've already been to and know well. And they almost certainly look nothing like New York. The only large American cities I've ever been to were L.A. and San Francisco, which I'm told are very different from NYC. So when I write about New York, in my mind, I'm following the American movie tradition of substituting one city for another. Movies like "Elf" and "Rumble in the Bronx", as well as several TV shows, were set in New York but filmed in Vancouver. This ploy probably fools most of the people most of the time. However, Vancouverites say, "Hey, those are OUR mountains in the background!" and New Yorkers say, "We KNOW that's not our city. You think you can fool us?"
There are of course many differences between the Hollywood movie industry and Brit Columbia, humble writer of fanfiction, but I would say that the main ones are (a) all the people involved in a movie get money for their efforts, and (b) a movie or TV show is a team production with a quality control department.
Most fanfiction writers do it for love, not money, and I am no exception. My beta and I are only one very small team and we both have day jobs and other responsibilities. We know that occasionally something is going to get by both of us. Apart from the inaccuracies in A New Day that I put in on purpose, I'm quite sure that my work contains other ones that I'm not aware of. I won't know until someone brings them up. There are also one or two that I do know about and that truly are mistakes, but since no one seems to have noticed yet, I'll refrain from pointing them out!
Above all, I don't want anyone to cast a critical eye in the direction of my beta, BlueSimplicity. She works hard for me and even gives me "Mini-Tutorials on NYC", which I have found extremely helpful. However, neither of us are experts about NYC and police work. We don't have a publishing house, editors and rafts of fact-checkers behind us to make sure that nothing inaccurate or offensive goes to print. We do the best we can with the information we can get our hands on, and even when my beta or my own research has put me in possession of certain facts, I still sometimes make an executive decision to deliberately change or disregard facts because it suits my plot or character development to do so.
I am grateful to totally4ryo for providing me with the opportunity to explain my process. If no one had said anything, I probably wouldn't have either. And I would just like to add that my decisions to use different shift times and imaginary street names are by no means graven in stone. If these details turn out to be preventing a significant number of people from enjoying the story, then I certainly will consider changing them. I care about not annoying my fans. I'm counting on you, the fans, to write and tell me if you think I've done something wrong. You're my 'rafts of fact-checkers'! If you feel I've made a mistake, then it's better if you tell me here, rather than after I've already done my time-consuming three posts at AFF, FF(dot) net, and Mediaminer.
If you have made it this far, thank you for reading. You deserve a cookie. And I wish I could give you one. My hotel, believe it or not, offers free chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate by the fireplace in the evenings! Can I choose hotels or what?