A single line which takes 15 minutes

And I don't mean a writer's block.

By the way, this blog isn't dead. I'm just not writing anything here if I don't have anything interesting to say. Yesterday I had the chance to do something 'interesting', so I'm here.

While writing yesterday I stumbled upon a single line which turned out to need some careful consideration. Many writers would just drop something that sounds reasonable in a similar situation, and then get it pointed out in all sorts of trivia sections about inconsistencies in their work, but I'm not that kind of writer. I like to care for small details like this and remain as consistent as possible. But sometime it means writing a single short sentence will take over 15 minutes of research and maths. Yes, maths.

If you're interested what that line is, I think three sentences taken from the middle of a chapter won't make publishers refuse the book, citing it as 'published'. So here's the 'problematic' line:

Look, my friend, I’d love to have that person removed as much as the other guy, but you must understand, I live in Elis. This is mainland, you know? If Dracaen sneezes, everybody over here catches cold. Figuratively speaking, of course. One bad word, and they’re all here within a week.
If you ever wrote anything professionally, you can probably spot the problem child already. "One bad word, and they're all here within a week". When I wrote the previous sentence and was about to write this time I hung my quill (figuratively speaking, of course) and thought "wait, so how long it would really take them to get from one city to the other?"

This is where the math comes in. Y'see, I have my own personal map of the world the novel is taking place in. The file is 2800x2800 big and is approximately to scale of 1 pixel = 10 km, meaning the world's disc is approximately 28 000 kilometers across (that's about 17 400 miles, for Americans). I had to take that scale into account and measure the distance between the two points representing the cities. Well, here's another problem, because my computer would probably be found outdated even by Silurians, about the only thing that could open that file was Paint. There's no line measuring in it, so I had to draw a rectangle, measure its sides and calculate its diagonal. Only then I reached the conclusion the distance between my cities is about 442 kilometers (275 miles).

Now that's done, I had to find out how fast an army marches. Sadly, Google is an idiot and searching for "military march speed" results not only modern speeds (with cars, tanks and stuff), but also understands 'march' as the month, as opposed to the rhythmic walking. Finally settling for the traditional walking speed of 5 km/h (is that 3 mph, Americans?) I found out the march would take approximately 88 hours. Given that's more than a day, I had to assume an army can march 16 hours a day tops (and that's very generous already!) and decided reaching Elis for an army from Lacedaemon would take 5,5 day. So, "they'd be here within a week", taking into account my estimations being probably too generous and my character not being a math geek.

Such a simple and short sentence, and it took so long to find out the detailed and reasonable answer to the dilemma it posed. I can tell why some writers may not want such a care for details, but I think I'm overall better from this experience. Not only I always wanted to care for things like those, but also it told me some things I didn't know about my world - like the country the story takes place in is roughly the size of Greece (which was surprisingly fitting).

Do you find a mistake in my calculations? Do you think I shouldn't care for stuff like this? Did you ever do things like this differently? I will happily read people's opinions.

Over and out.

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