Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Calling on the Info Crew

God is in the details, or so the saying goes, and never is that more true than when writing a novel. Not even a great plot and wonderful characters can make up for shoddy research, which is why diligent writers must always go the extra mile to get things right.

One of the details I always try to pay attention to is the type of cars my characters drive. It may sound silly given that these people—shhh, don’t let them hear me say this—aren’t real. But it is a fact that most of us choose vehicles that reflect not just our needs and economic status but also our personalities and our values.  The right car in a novel can convey all sorts of information about a character, while the wrong one can give off a totally inaccurate impression. 

You probably know what I mean. The sort of person who owns a Jeep Wrangler will be quite different from the one who owns a Volvo station wagon or the one who owns a Porsche 911. Most people buy cars that reflect who they are—or at least who they wish they were—whether that’s an adventurer, a safety-conscious parent, a successful executive, or something else.

Cars in My Daughter’s Legacy

Cars come up several times in My Daughter's Legacy, including in this exchange between the protagonist, Nicole, and her sister, Maddee, as they greet each other with a hug when Nicole gets home from college for the summer.

“Where’d this come from?” Maddee asked as we pulled apart, eying my new vehicle.
“One guess.” Suddenly I felt embarrassed that I’d been the beneficiary of such generosity. But before I could say anything else, my sister flashed a knowing grin. “Ah, yes. The Nana graduation car.”
My embarrassment turned to relief. “You got one too?”
“Oh yeah. And Renee and Danielle when they graduated. Looks like yours came early, probably because she’s so proud of how well you’ve been doing.”
I shrugged, but on the inside I was beaming. “I always wondered why you drove a Mustang.”
Maddee laughed. “I know, right? She tries to choose something appropriate, and I guess because I’m so into fashion she thought I’d want something sleek and sporty, but that car wasn’t me at all. I was so happy when I finally got to trade it in for the Prius, which is so much more—”
She raised an eyebrow. “I was going to say sensible.”

It’s not an important scene in the overall scheme of things, but it comes along early in the book and helps to establish these characters—both how they see themselves and how others see them.  Of course, before I could write the scene, I had to know what car best fit Maddee’s personality. And that meant calling on a member of my “info crew.”

Help Wanted

What’s an info crew? That’s my term for the people behind the scenes who help me out with my writing whenever I have a book question that requires some particular area of expertise. At any given time, my group might include a fashionista (for my more fashion-conscious characters’ clothing), an antiques expert (for the furniture in my wealthier characters’ homes), a cop (for procedural accuracy), a equine expert (for horse-related questions), and so on. Were you to read through the acknowledgements in my various books, you’d see certain names pop up repeatedly. That probably means they’re in my info crew and somehow came to my aid during the writing of that book.

In this particular case, I called on my brother-in-law, David Clark, who happens to be my expert in all things automotive.  Here’s a screen shot of our exchange about this particular scene:

As you can see, it takes a certain type of person to be in an info crew. They have to be available/interruptible without warning, they have to be able to play “what if” with your story, and they have to be kind and patient enough to answer all manner of questions without making you feel stupid. I’m lucky to have David in my life for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with my writing. But I’m also deeply grateful for his invaluable ability to help choose the cars for my casts of characters. 

If God is in the details, then surely He blesses those who help us writers get our details right!


If one of your favorite literary character’s stories was taking place in 2017, what car would best suit their personality?  


  1. One of my fav characters is Nora Charles of The Thin Man stories. I think she would like a fast car like bright red Jaguar 2018 F-Type. :-)

  2. Scarlet O'Hara-she wouldn't drive, she would be chauffeured in a rolls royce limo

  3. Tris from Divergent and she would drive a Mustang GT that is matte army green with a black interior and carbon fiber accents.

  4. Sherlock Holmes--black 2017 MINI John Cooper Works

  5. Sounds like we've got some car experts here, these are great! Keep 'em coming!

  6. Jem Finch from to Kill a Mockingbird--lawyer for the people driving a 2 door jeep to get to the remote areas of maycomb county

  7. james bond--retired by now, he would be driving the model S Tesla

  8. I'm thinking about Mary Poppins, who would probably drive a Land Rover Discovery because it's generally considered to be the most practical British-made car currently available--and it has plenty of room for toting around children and chimney sweeps!