Cars, Bars and More…

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about how characters are revealed in the details of their lives. I’m not the only writer obsessed with SHOW versus TELL. Anton Chekhov famously said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” As part of my determination to SHOW more than TELL the reader, I’ve been contemplating cars, bars and other bits & pieces of real life.

In my contemporary Candy’s Monsters series, there’s a dance between the solid, factual reality of the here & now, and the monstrous. The fanciful, supernatural, paranormal aspects work only because the real life details ring true.

That being said, I’m not an expert on everything — far from it. So I’m happy to report that I have some very smart and well-informed friends.  I have several friends with knowledge of cars and as a “car-free/care-free” New Yorker, I haven’t driven in years and that was a rental on a vacation.

I’ve often call upon my car-people to determine what kind of car a particular character would drive. Just the other day, I asked my best green technology expert/car owner to help me figure out what kind of electric car one of the characters would drive (a Volt). Two motorcycle aficionados concurred on another character’s vehicle choice — that was good. And I’ve often double-checked the drink choice of a character with a bartender friend. As a lightweight in the drinking department, it’s good to have an expert on hand when first hand experimenting might simply be too much booze.

The depth and breadth of some of the responses I get to a brief query is amazing. I asked a friend what kind of camera a particular character would have during a specific period of time. He gave me several viable choices complete with links to images and there it was — exactly the right camera. The one I had in mind, but could not think of the name.

So here’s a shout out to some of the experts I’ve tapped for those details that help SHOW something essential about the character without spelling it out to the reader.

Lew, Tom, Shanna, Chuck, Steven, Julia & Lisa — Thank YOU!



  1. Great post Candy. With sci-fi I don’t usually have to worry about details in the here and now, but there have been times when I would have killed for a friend who was expert in astronomy, or cybertech, or a host of other tech related issues.

    You have given me an idea though. Next time I might send out a call for help on my blog. Now why didn’t I think of that before? -sigh-

    • Candy

      In science fiction, and fantasy, the storyteller’s challenge is to create an entire coherent world/universe. Yes, you don’t have to worry about the amount of rain in a New York summer (this one bugged me in a TV show that equated hot with dry and was obviously written and filmed on a set in L.A.); when seat belts became mandatory in the U.S.; what the WWII era precursor of the CIA was called (the OSS); and when Allison Steele “the Nightbird” was the night DJ on WNEW-FM, etc. etc. etc. The kind of things I check to bring reality to my fiction.

      But you to create a WORLD, its inhabitants, culture, food, technology… That would freak me out!

      For years I’ve relied on friends with professional or personal expertise. The internet will get you a lot of useful facts, like the dates, but matching a car with a character OR picking out the right camera, dress designer, cocktail, etc.

      I also have a Forensic Pathologist (the Medical Examiner in a county upstate) who will answer any of my gloomy, gory and deadly questions and a few other doctors willing to give me their opinions. This is very useful. I know a few scientists too, but unfortunately I can’t loan you an astronomer or a physicist. I might be able to find you a cybertech guy if you have a specific question pass it along.

  2. I’ve been thinking of asking for some advice on my various social media accounts, although doing so might make me seem like an axe-murderer 😉 However, I used today, and even though the biochemist couldn’t answer my questions completely, he pointed me to four sources that could offer more assistance. You should see my Bing searches… all in hopes of learning how a body would decompose once submerged inside of a fifty gallon drum of diesel fuel.

    • Candy

      I’ve got a pretty scary shelf of books on forensic pathology, criminal psychopathology, poisons, etc. but my friend the medical examiner is still my go-to source for all that is murderous. She’s great and never balks at even the least appealing questions. The murder in the wine cellar required her expert input (POED). I called her last month for help on the fourth MONSTER. She’d have had some good thoughts on your decomposing body.

      Yes, we do appear to be pretty dangerous people. Of course I confine all my killing to killer text on electronic pages!