It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their thoughts and experiences. I encourage you to check out their posts by clicking on the icon at the bottom.
When writing fiction, how accurate does the author need be when describing real places, events and things? I frequently face this question when writing present-day novels set in recognizable locations.
There are at least a couple of schools of thought in the amount of freedom allowed to writers of fiction. On one side are those who believe fiction is just that, fiction, and writers are not bound by facts. They should be allowed complete freedom in developing their stories. On the other side are those who think actual and historical elements within the stories should be presented as accurately as possible.
I avoid using real people, establishments, or businesses in my books for obvious reasons, but at times, I do incorporate actual places, events, and things. When I do, I believe they should be represented correctly. Failing to do so would alienate readers familiar with what is being described.
Here are a couple of examples:
CITIES: If you use a real city (say Charlotte) in your novel, landmarks should be accurately described. Knowledgeable readers expect Charlotte Douglas International Airport to be to the west of the city, I-485 to be the outer loop, Lake Norman to be to the north, NODA to be off North Davidson Street, and the business district to be called “Uptown Charlotte,” not “Downtown.” Screw up any of this, and you’ll lose credibility with Charlotte readers and many others who’ve been there.
PROFESSIONS & PROCEDURES: If your book involves specific professions (medical, legal, financial, etc.) it is important that titles, responsibilities, procedures, and even jargon be accurately depicted. One of my favorite authors is Michael Connelly. He writes crime novels set in L.A. with Detective Harry Bosch at the center of the action. It is Connelly’s prior experience as an L.A. Times crime beat reporter that brings accuracy and realism to his suspense novels. While I’m sure Mr. Connelly takes literary freedom on occasion in describing police procedures, it is difficult to tell when, or if, fact departs fiction.
This final observation is not mine, but I remember an author recommending that writers are best served when they write about what they know and are keenly aware of what their readers expect. I can’t think of any better advise to offer.
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