Facts Matter

With every book you write–fiction or nonfiction–facts matter. Nothing pulls a reader out of a story faster than the feeling that something is terribly wrong or just not true.

Sure you need to do research when writing historical or police procedural, but to me those usually aren’t where authors miss. Those are things most authors know they need to research. The misses are in the little things.

Have you described someone as not being able to eat dairy because of their Celiac Disease? Miss. Celiacs can eat dairy.

Have you described the mountainous landscape of Minnesota? Miss. Even if Minnesota technically has mountains, no one thinks of it as mountainous.

Writing a book is far more than just sitting down and creating, it’s also researching and understanding who your characters are based on certain real-life facts. If you give your character a disease of any sort you need to research and understand what that disease is.

If you are setting your book in a world outside of the one you’re familiar with, you need to study maps, pictures and read about the place to make sure your Victorian house belongs there.

Facts matter because the minute your reader finds something you’ve written unbelievable they will find the rest of the story equally unbelievable.

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7 comments

  1. I read a best-selling book in which some scenes were set in Oklahoma, where I live. The author had cicadas singing in the night. Doesn’t happen. They stop at dusk. After that I questioned everything she wrote.

  2. This also works in paranormal or s/f or any of the other fantasy genres. Your world building must make sense. If your shapeshifters can shift from human to whatever, the manner in which they make their shift has to be logical within the parameters of their specific reality. It can be totally outlandish, but it has to fit the logic of the world you’re working in. And you really have to keep good notes.

  3. The worst I’ve come across was reviewing a historical romance set between London and York in the early 1700s
    I know York really well, London not so much, but I do have family there.
    The author had researched York now then presumed all the historical places were as they are now, but made them privately owned.
    York wasn’t like this then, part of its history is the victorians rebuilding the city as a historical place.
    The author iced her inaccurate history when the heroine, left her London Town house to buy a blue berry muffin from a street vender.

    We didn’t have blueberries when I was a kid, they are reasonably new here. We didn’t have muffins either, not the kind you put fruit in.
    We had buns, usually made with a Victoria sponge recipe, you can add currents to them or make butterflies with buttercream. You make them in cases, similar to muffin cases, but about 1/4 of the size.
    And if you were really good you got to kick the spoon and/or bowl when they were cooking as a treat.
    There some useless English history for you.

    1. Not so useless if you’re the author writing a book and getting the details wrong. Personally, I love your bit of history. What I love most is that the Victorians rebuilt the town as a historical place. I’m almost 70 years old, and Victorians are history! Thank you for this fascinating bit of history about history.

  4. A memoir I wrote has me as the 10 -year-old narrator of a journey in 1944. It describes the old Pennsylvania station in New York, the Maple Leaf overnight express train, and a Canadian grain farm. I didn’t trust my memory, but was pleasantly surprised to find when researching these three places, that my memories were right in all details. The story brings them to life again.

  5. I have a good friend who is a firearms instructor. A number of years ago, he was contacted by a best-selling author of thrillers to teach him everything he knew about guns. They spent an entire week at the range, shooting pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, even automatic weapons. The author ran drills, learned how to clear a jam, and learned how to disassemble and clean a weapon.

    When reading this author’s book series, anyone who knows anything about firearms can tell exactly where this happened, because the main character’s knowledge of guns (he’s a military contractor) goes from pretty vague to right on the money.

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