Facts in Fiction: #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

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.

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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.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Please check out what other writers participating in this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop have to say by clicking HERE.

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If you have a minute, take a look around my website, and give me your thoughts on my upcoming novel, BUTCHER ROAD.  Click HERE to learn more.

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15 thoughts on “Facts in Fiction: #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

  1. All my stories are based one hundred per cent in the real world. Like you, businesses and people go through a name change, but those familiar with the area would probably figure out where the places are. Most of those places were my battlefield and I know them well. But I still research the heck out of them. An example is an upcoming novel is the small town of las Sauces, Colorado. It’s a flyspeck on the map, but has an interesting history as a stage stop and some colorful local stories which I’ve tried to preserve in my novels. One of the more interesting was when the Devil showed up at a dance. I mention it on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m just finishing Word Painting, a writing craft book, which is great in so many ways, but flawed in many others. For one thing, she advocates getting all setting details exactly right, including business names, which I tend to avoid if the business won’t come off in the most positive light in my story. Great post!

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  3. My latest novel was my first and only novel written in a real place. I did this because it’s written about and for Air Force spouses and active duty women so I wanted the places in the book to be familiar to those who’ve been stationed there. I stuck to a location where I lived but things have changed a bit since then. I did some research on establishments to try to make sure I got everything as close to current reality as I could.

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  4. Iola

    I read one blog post which basically said that it makes it easier for readers to accept our fiction if we can surround that fiction by facts.

    And it’s often the small things which impress me … or throw me off. For example, I read a novel from an American author that was set in Australia, and there was a comment about a car with a bumper sticker saying “the dingo got my baby”. That’s a reference to the 1980 death of Azaria Chamberlain, which impressed me. That author really knew his stuff.

    Then I read a novel where the heroine landed at a specific airport I’d just been to (Maui, I think), collected her luggage, and exited the terminal. That was wrong – that’s the only airport I’ve ever been to where the luggage collection is actually outside the terminal. That was an interesting fact, and one worth remarking on, except the author obviously hadn’t been there.

    Liked by 1 person

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