On the Importance of Clear Note-taking

October 24, 2011

Last week, I posted an article on historical accuracy and whether it matters. My general contention is that I won’t change anything in history unless there’s a very good plot reason for doing so. And even though I am willing to move a battle, I try very hard to get the small things right. I wrote, “If I make mistakes–and I will–I promise to admit them.”

So, it’s time to admit a mistake which was recently brought to my attention by the very astute Joanne Renaud.

When choosing a name for Cleopatra Selene’s freedwoman, Chryssa, I decided to forego the usual male-dominated naming conventions of the time (which might have resulted in a Antonia Chryssa or Julia Chryssa or Julia Chryssa Jubatiana) in favor of using the names of actual freedmen and servants found on inscriptions in Mauretania. To that end, I chose the name Cleopatra Antonianus. It looked very strange to me–not in keeping with Roman naming conventions. One might have expected a Cleopatra Antoniana at the very least. But who was I to question the translation of an inscription by a scholar? How much better to incorporate a strange but historically accurate name, right?

I thought I was being very clever. And right there, in my notes, I had culled the name from the scholarship: Cleopatra d C. Antonianus

Except, what do those abbreviated letters in the middle mean? The actual reference is: Cleopatra daughter of C. Antonianus

A rather big difference. Clearly, I’m not allowed to abbreviate anything in the future. I remember obsessing about this name for quite some time, so I’m not sure how I managed to get this one so wrong.

I’ll have to figure out how to handle this in the next book. Suggestions?

6 Responses to On the Importance of Clear Note-taking

  • I hate when I don’t take clear notes. If I don\’t go right back and translate them to full sentences, I forget what I meant!!!

    • I think it was a function of something slipping through the cracks on my part. Sometimes thinking about something obsessively, you get a misunderstanding stuck in your head as fact.

  • I wouldn’t bother changing the name if you’re going to use it in the next book. If it really bothers you, just mention in your note at the beginning or end that you made a linguistic error. Most of your readers will go, “Oh, okay, that’s fine then.” And then they’ll forget about it. If they like the series enough to read the third book, you don’t need to worry about them abandoning ship over one little error!

    • I think I may just call her Cleopatra Antoniana and make a note of it in the end notes. What do you think?

      • I think that would work! It’s just a little mistake. I’ve seen some bad ones from authors with only a superficial understanding of their subject. Most readers respect and appreciate writers who acknowledge mistakes. Your readers won’t be any different. And like I said, if they like the books enough to read the third one, they’re not going to hold an incorrect name against you.

  • I get stuck on details too. So you’re not alone. I tell myself that I’ve done my level best and yes, there will be information that comes out after this is published that will inevitably result in errors in my text. But the point is, you did your best.