Making Details Wrong on Purpose


I work at a bank at my current day job, and a lot of our time is devoted to risk management and employee safety. I can tell you that much of what you learn in any movie, TV show, or book that involves bank robbery procedure is no longer true. However, I am relieved that writers still use the information audiences expect.


I am a firm believer in truth, being knowledgeable, sharing knowledge, intellectual freedom, and free speech. I would never want incorrect information spread and/or used for dubious means. But in this regard, the fact that fictional details are wrong keeps a lot of women safer.

This is analogous with early CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. If you’re a fan of the hit show, which ended for good on September 27, 2015 *sad face*, you already know the level of forensic information it doles out. As the show carried more seasons and spin-offs, the technology became increasingly outlandish for the public sector in which it was set, but that’s not my point.

Going back to its roots, season one of CSI was revelatory, and so devoted to the science. And it told a much larger audience –not just devotees of non-fiction forensic shows– about the DNA-annihilating properties of bleach. What was a cool factoid for me was a game changer for cops and criminals.

Bleach...Not my thing by Bunny Jager via Flickr
Bleach…Not my thing by Bunny Jager via Flickr

With my moral makeup, I would never want to be responsible for endangering anyone’s life or making their job more dangerous. Nor would I want to make the lives of those who stop criminals any more difficult. Yes, I’m sure if someone really wanted to know they could research all the new procedures banks have implemented. I would only ask, if they’re a writer of any kind, that they stay true to the popular fiction and not help out those with bad intentions. This is such a moment where I would be happy to be wrong on purpose.

I feel like this is yet another ethics question as well as another one of those writer responsibilities we have to think about. I don’t think perpetuating this kind of farce is harming anyone. I think it’s doing a lot of good. I know it’s not a black and white issue as a whole, and I’m tempted to play devil’s advocate with myself, but I’m going to stop here.

What do you think?


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  1. As both a writer and a scientist, I tend to disagree about getting the details wrong. I think that if they’re in in there, they should be correct. However, given my workplace, I am also familiar with information leaks compromising safety. I think the best way to circumvent this problem in the writing is “less is more”: for example, you can still accurately paint the broad picture of what needs to be done to be done in a bank heist, without giving away details that can compromise bank security. After all, you’re writing a story, not a how-to manual. 😉

    1. Hmmm, I hadn’t thought about omission as an option. Or that less details would be less boring. Can you tell that my first drafts sometimes read like instruction manuals?

      Thanks for the feedback :).

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