Monday, September 14, 2009

Get Your Facts Straight - Research is VERY Important

I am a big freak when it comes to accuracy in writing. No, I don't necessarily go to the level of knowing that three buttons on a waistcoat were in existance one year and then it went to two the next, but I do look for the big stuff. One of my biggest turn-offs when it comes to writing, whether it is unpublished work coming across my desk, or published work is the use of innaccurate information.

I don't care what type of writing you do, please take the time to know your genre well enough and certainly the world building that goes along with it. Those errors, while it might be small in terms of the complete manuscript, are errors that literally ruin the entire story for me. Let me give you some examples.

My kids have one of those stories that are built around a composers music. We love the stories because not only do the kids get exposed to great music, but the stories are pretty good. In any case, one of the stories takes place in Venice (and by the way, I am not talking about Little Einsteins here). I've been to Venice several times now and, while I don't know it as well as I know Florence, I know it pretty well. The characters describe riding in a gondola, under the bridge of Sighs and then going through the darkened smaller canals to the Island of the Dead. I cringe everytime I hear that. First of all the Bridge of Sighs does in deed look out across Venice, but to get to the Island, you go out across the large expanse of ocean waters, not through the canals. While this made the story great for "suspense" that bit of inaccuracy is like running fingers down a chalkboard.

The same goes for larger stories. Insure that all of those details are correct. I just read one a while ago that the writer inserted a fictional character into the story as if it was a real piece of history. Um, no! What about dates and people living during a period of time. Make sure it is correct.

And yes, contemporary writers need to make sure the information about their cities is correct. Remember, your readers do like to visit these locations (see the recent rush of visitors to Forks, WA.). Screw it up and they will come after you.

Finally, for your romantic suspense people. Make sure you know what those governmental agencies really do. I am tired of hearing that the FBI is inovolved with smuggling in Korea as a part of a political plot.

Think of it this way. It may be small, but that rejection letter will be BIG!



  1. I swear I knew the Scarlet Pimpernel was ficitonal.

  2. I must have misunderstood your comment. Is not the entire point of HF creating a larger story around a real event or time period, and so of course inserting fictional characters along the real ones? Is this not Philippa Gregory and Sarah Dunant to a T?
    Moby Dick's wife? TWO fictional characters in the real time period of the whaling heyday?
    I remain mystified, but agree that incongruous details in a work of HF are completely annoying to anyone who knows something about that time period.
    In Fields of Gold, a famous aviator is portrayed as having had an illegitimate child with a woman he met on a barnstorming tour. Apparently this is quite proper and legal, even though he must have living relatives. Must the author make it clear that a historical novel contains...yow! fictional characters? I must be off form today.

  3. It must be me! Not Moby Dick's Wife, idiot. Ahab's Wife? Who wrote that very popular novel?
    And now off-topic. Look up the Donald Maass website and notice that his agency is inviting those who were "declined" to resubmit their work, if they feel they have improved upon it. Cool.