Last weekend I managed to put in another 10K on my Clockwork Heart sequel, although some of it was hard-won. I was having trouble with the fact that locomotives need to stop periodically to replenish their coal and water — and a stop was going to give my characters a very good chance of escaping, which wasn’t going to suit the plot at all.
So I grumbled about it on Facebook, and a number of friends replied. I appreciated the help; several sent me facts about steam engines, several suggested fantastic methods of fueling-on-the-run, and several reminded me that it’s my story, and steam engines should refuel just as often as the story requires, and no more.
I gotta admit, sometimes I hit that realism barrier and forget that I can walk around it, if I really must. Writers strive for a certain level of realism in their stories, even in fantasy. Doesn’t matter if your book is full of magic and monsters; you’ll probably still take the time to mention watering the horses or gathering wood for the fire, or any other little detail of day-to-day life that will make your world seem real, even though it’s purely imaginative. Those little realistic details help the reader accept the more outrageously fantastic parts of your story — “okay, other than the magic and the monsters, this world works pretty much the same as mine. Got it.”
I’ve been especially concerned with realism in Ondinium, because there isn’t any magic. Well, all right, lighter-than-air metal is technically “magical,” because it defies all the known laws of physics, but as far as the characters are concerned, it’s just another wondrous curiosity of nature to be exploited in the name of industrial development. And, other than that, I’ve tried to keep technology in the range of the possible for the late 19th and early 20th century.
Besides, I have a father who counts the bullets expended in movies and books and is quick to critique those amazing “infinity clips” so many heroes carry — I understand that readers who are experts in a field will be quick to comment if an author gets the details wrong!
However, my steam engine must travel without stopping, so even though I’m not sure how long an engine can go without refueling/rewatering in reality, it’s going to succeed in Ondinium. Chalk it up to superior manufacturing, if you must….
So now I’ve got my characters one last transfer away from their destination, but I’ve been momentarily stumped by difference in rail gauge between Ondinium and the surrounding countries, an important defense strategy that I set up earlier in the novel and now need to resolve within the necessities of the story. Doh! Trapped by my own precedent!