Caress the detail, the divine detail— Vladimir Nabokov
Let it be unequivocally stated—I am NOT a detail person. When I read a Regency, I seldom notice by what title the characters address each other unless the author confuses me. When I watch a movie, I fall into the stunning vistas and the passion of the characters. I don’t notice if the background is the wrong city or state or even if the heroine loses her shoes from one scene to the next. The story is what is important to me, and as long as I’m being entertained, I simply don’t care if the details are correct.
Obviously, if the screenwriter or author drops Napoleon into the 20th century, I’ll notice, but that’s an enormous faux pas and not a tiny detail. Have Napoleon bop through an early 19th century European ballroom and I’ll not remember what year the scene is in or what year he was deposed, and I’ll accept the author’s rendition without question.
I am not entirely certain why details float past me like so much flotsam. I’ve always been a big picture person, but when I first started writing, I tracked every fact right down to their shoelaces and the use of colloquialisms like “OK.” But once I learned it, I promptly forgot it, and perhaps the tediousness of looking up the same information over and over lost its appeal. Or perhaps it’s because I have next to no memory that I simply can’t be bothered arguing over small points.
But for some inane reason, the basic detail of grammar, spelling, and punctuation leaps out at me when I’m reading or just driving down the road in my car. How hard is it to learn apostrophes, people? And what does everyone think dictionaries are for, doorstoppers? At least turn on spellcheck! Admittedly, I ignore more difficult details like when to hyphenate compound words, because the English language is insane and the rules go on for pages. But really, if a new writer is going to send out a proposal, a passing acquaintance with Webster’s would provide the spelling of buxom. You really do not want to know what I read when I read the badly-spelled version.
Why can’t I just enjoy the story when I run into typos and grammar errors? Perhaps ignorance really is bliss. Which will drag you out of the story faster—typos or missing shoes?