The Accuracy of the Unusual Details

After writing about setting with my last entry, I was thinking about unusual details that bring a setting to life.  You don’t need a lot to do it, but the details do have to be accurate.  Otherwise, it’s going to stand out to anyone who’s ever been there.

An example is the TV series Covert Affairs, which is set in Washington, DC.  It’s pretty obvious that they filmed the pilot here and got a lot of stock footage, then returned to Ontario, Canada to do the daily filming.  It generally looks like DC because of all the stock footage they got.  But in one episode, the character has to take our public transportation, and everyone calls it a subway.  Five minutes with any travel book on “How do I get around?” would have told them it was called the Metro, not the subway.

Some people say that writers need to visit the area as part of the research to depict it accurately.  Obviously, this isn’t, since there have been writers who have never gone to a place and readers have sworn they must have.  Some of that is picking the right unusual details and doing the research to make sure they are accurate.

Update on Masks:  I’m working on a scene set inside a house in Annandale, VA.  The hardest part so far was determing the floor plan of the house.  The characters have to move all over the house, so I have to know how the inside is laid out so it makes sense.  Wouldn’t do to have a character walk through a wall!  I tried first houses for sale, but a surprisingly number of sites didn’t have any floor plans.  I finally tried searching for floor plans of houses, and that gave me a  site with a lot of sample layouts.   Now I’m contemplating a change to the scene that popped into my head.  Might have some interesting results or it could be a dead end, so I’m giving it a bit of thought.  Fortunately, most of the scene can be completed before I get to that part, with maybe minor modifications earlier.