That’s Just…Wrong

In my last post, I wrote about my own take on the old writer adage “Write What You Know”. When you take it with a grain of salt, I agree, it’s a good thing to do. But, of course, there are always things you can’t know. And, there are things you don’t even think about possibly being wrong, just because we’ve read and seen too many things that tell us that the wrong things are true.

So, for this blog, I will make it my mission to correct at least some of these unknown mistakes that won’t seem to die in fiction. (If you feel I’ve missed an important one, feel free to add it in the comments or message me and I’ll add it.)

1. If you’re knocked out for more than a minute, it’s very possible you will have brain damage. Despite what you’ve seen and read time and time again, if you are hit over the head and are knocked out long enough to be moved to an entirely new location (generally by the bad guys) you aren’t going to wake up a little dazed and then be walking around a few seconds later. It’s hard to get knocked out for a reason. If every bump on the head took you out for 10 or more minutes, many more humans would have been eaten by lions back in yonder-times.

2. Gold bars are HEAVY. Ever dream of breaking into Fort Knox (or the New York Federal Reserve if you want to be different) throwing a bunch of gold into a duffel and heading out rich? It’s a great “bank heist” standard after all. Yeah, gold is dense. The men who move gold bars around wear special toe protectors to make sure their feet aren’t crushed by a dropped bar, and each bar is something like 20 pounds. By all accounts, those 20 pounds being contained in such a small object makes each one feel more like 50 (sadly, I’ve never gotten to hold one to see…) Stick a bunch in a duffel bag and you’re either not going to be able to lift it, or the fabric’s going to tear before you get it out of the room.

3. The Middle Ages lasted for 10 centuries. Look it up, from about 400 A.D. to 1400 A.D. Fashion changed in that millennium. A lot changed in that millennium. If you’re doing a historical fiction (or a time travel fantasy, or…) it’s easy to fall into historical inaccuracies by grouping it together as one cohesive time.

4. “Blowing up” a picture doesn’t make it clearer. There’s only so many pixels in a camera picture. At some point, zooming in is going to just make the picture blurry (try it yourself. Find a small picture and start zooming in, or stretching it, on your computer. It will get bigger, but not get clearer).

5. Defibrillation doesn’t bring people back to life. The electric jolt “shock paddles” give actually are made to stop the heart for a split second so that the heart will “restart” with a regular beat. If the heart’s already not beating, it can’t help.

6. Potatoes aren’t native to Ireland. One that’s more important, again, for historical/time travel fiction, even though they are associated with Ireland these days (what with the Potato Famine and all) potatoes did not exist in Europe (the “old world”) prior to the Columbian Exchange.

7. Cars don’t explode. If you watch Mythbusters, you probably already know this, but cars don’t tend to explode (or catch on fire) when they crash. Not unless explosives have been set inside them. Yes, gas is flammable, but car manufacturers are careful about those things. They don’t want to, you know, kill their customers.

8. Sounds doesn’t travel in space. Without any matter (air) to move through, the sound waves aren’t going to travel. Doesn’t matter if it’s a giant explosion or someone talking, there’s some finagling you’ll have to do in your sci fi for that to work.

9. Just because you aren’t in the fire/explosion/lava doesn’t mean you can’t get burned. Heat travels away from things that cause heat. It’s why, even if you aren’t touching the flame, holding your finger over a candle will still end up with you getting burned. Standing next to hot lava will, likewise, burn you.

10. Elevators doors won’t open onto empty shafts. As a safety mechanism, the part of the elevator that opens the doors is on the car. If the elevator is not at the floor, the doors aren’t going to slide open (at least for newer models, I’m not sure about older ones if someone wants to look into that.) It is, however, possible to get stuck in an elevator. I speak from experience there…

Hopefully those will help writers with any plot holes, and–like I said–if you think I’m missing something important, contact me or add it yourself in the comments. Happy writing.

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