Friday, June 25, 2010

a source of f(r)iction

i do a lot of research when i write my novels.
a lot.

if i say a certain band was on the cover of a certain magazine in june of 1992 - well, they were.
if i write about a small wine bar within walking distance of the spanish steps - well, it's there.
if i have a wiccan coven use dandelion leaf in a protection spell - well, it's because they do.

do i do this because i fear a reader might be fact checking me?
no - because i'm sure readers have plenty more important things to do than googling to see if i did my homework. i do it because i believe it brings credibility and authenticity to my manuscripts.
"but, don't you write fiction?" you might ask.
yes. yes i do.
but i don't write fantasy (well, ok, there was this one time a few years ago but i haven't tried it since - i swear!).

now, i'm not saying all writers should or have to do this. and not all readers care about authenticity.
but this one does and it drives me up a wall when things just don't add up, or when they are completely false. luckily most the authors i read are very good about their facts, or making it seem like their fiction is factual.

but occasionally i will read a passage that will include something so glaringly untrue that it pulls me right out of the story. often it is just a few words or a short sentence - a phrase so inconsequential that my reaction might seem disproportionate. but even if i'm the screwy one without the ability to ignore these "truth smudges", i can't help but think less of the author. ESPECIALLY when these untruths have no real bearing on the plot and could have easily been corrected by just doing a simple internet search.

in my book (har har) that's just laziness.
and insulting to those who spend their money and time reading the words you put to paper.


SkippyMom said...

Nothing drives me more bananas when an author is writing about one of the characters being in Washington DC [where I lived for 4 years while going to school and still live close to] and they get things all wrong - but it makes Pooldad laugh when I get cranky about it and he knows DC better than me!

I want to read your book! PLEASE :) [I mean when you finish, of course, but PLEASE?]

jennl777 said...

I am so there with you. Nothing will take me right out of a moment more than a factoid I know is absolutely incorrect. It's up there with movies that take place in one location and are obviously filmed elsewhere (i.e., Urban Cowboy's trailer park is indeed in Pasadena... CALIFORNIA, because we ain't got no mountains in this here part of the country...)

And I want to read your book too! Finish it already, would ya???

Dawn said...

I LOVE research. And I love to learn things when I read a book. You've nailed this, Mi. Authenticity is SO key. Although DaVinci Code (in my opinion) was not well written from a craft standpoint, Dan Brown wowed readers with his authentic research. I learned SO much.
Great post.

Random Thinker said...

I agree about lack of authenticity pulling you out of the book. I've run across that in books set in the past. 70's especially. I lived then. I rememeber it. Bad books have things that shouldn't be there popping up. Even more conspicuous are things that should be there that aren't.

It really struck me when I read "Lucifer's Hammer" which was written in 1977. The way people talked and thought about race and gender was totally different back then. The things they used in everyday life were different. Some current authors address that by describing the rotary phone. That ruins the moment. We didn't think about rotary phones because that's all we had. Quit describing it to me.

4emkaa said...

it is so true ... I write myself ...of course in Polish. I write about world which is real, not some science fiction. My stories have their roots in my life and in reality which is around me.
I'm checking facts, dates etc...

mi said...

skippymom - of course!!! i really would love to hear your feedback!

jenl777 - those movie fact smudges are the WORST! especially when they make no effort to cover them up!
and yes, haha, i'm trying to finish it, i promise!

dawn - yes, i love the detail and information in dan brown's novels, but i agree he's not the best craftsman!

random thinker - you bring up a really good point. i didn't even think about the overly conspicuous items that can ruin the flow of a book!

4emkaa - i find it makes my stories better to do the research, don't you?

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Good for you for doing research, and I think you're right. All it takes is for one untrue thing that can make the reader question the story as a whole; I have read novels by other authors before where I'll think, "Oh, that would never happen." And then it'll ruin the story a little for me.

4emkaa said...

MI, if you are checiking inforamtion and then you put true facts, places and things into your stories it is very good.
It is better for you and for your story, becasue you are becoming more reliable and so your characters ...

mi said...

neurotic workaholic - i totally agree with you.

4emkaa - yes, this is true.

Johnny Rojo said...

Bless you for doing your research. Nothing drives me nuts more than glaring inaccuracies in writing, even if it's fiction. I read mostly non-fiction and am shocked at how many errors there are even in non-fiction. The key to great fiction is believability.

Christine Fletcher said...

I'm with you on this one all the way. I drove myself nuts doing research for Ten Cents, but it was absolutely worth it. As a reader, I've been bumped out of a story too many times by inaccuracies that could have been easily researched.