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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Know The Facts Even When Writing Fiction

Even if you write fiction part of your story is probably based on fact and getting those facts straight is what makes the story believable. You can make a fantasy world as creative as you want but if you screw up the simple stuff readers will always call you on it. My last young adult trilogy was about werewolves. So where are the facts in that you ask? Good question.

There are two kinds of facts, actual ones and those you make up. You don't want to get either one wrong. My trilogy was based on four very different cultures that (in my books) migrated to America hundreds of years ago, Romanians, Tibetans, Irish, and Mayans. To accurately portray each culture I had to research each and every one and learn about their history and people. It was a lot of work but it was fascinating and I really enjoyed it. That's what I like to call the facts within the fiction.

While Google is a great research tool you have to be careful that the sites you do your research on are reputable. In my case I went to websites for major cities in the countries and looked back through their history that way. I also hit up a nearby library and did some research the old fashion way. I love Wikipedia but you have to be careful to check the facts you find there. Sound like a lot of work for a fictional book? I'm only half done.

It's vital to keep a record of the fictional facts in your story, that way you never break your own rules. Without giving away too much of my series I'll try to give you an example. In my book as werewolves first come into their change (around puberty) they are more compelled by the full moon to turn into wolf form. I always had to keep track of the moon phase in my book and not screw up the story line based on that. Keep a notebook for small facts and rules of your world and it will help keep you on track when you go back and edit.

Remember, just because you write fiction doesn't mean you aren't held to some rules, even if they are your own! Though it focuses on non-fiction writing, take a look at this article by Writer's Digest titled Get Your Facts Straight. You'll be surprised how much of it applies to fiction writing! http://writersdigest.com/article/Get_Your_Facts_Straight

10 comments:

  1. Yes! Excellent post, Heather - and a great reminder. So true!! :-)

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  2. Thanks Shannon. There was so much research involved in the last of my YA paranormal series that it really had me thinking about this subject!

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  3. Great post. And I go cross-eyed trying to keep everything straight in the book itself--what did I say on page 73, and now I'm in the last part of the book and did I screw something up? I read things over and over, make notes. I usually catch a character saying something that is the opposite of what I'd had someone do.
    And the research is the key. You almost can't do enough of it.

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  4. Agreed! My favorite novels read so real because the authors got the facts right, large and small. Great post!

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  5. Great post! There's nothing like a story with glaring inconsistencies or continuity errors to make you lose faith in the writing. Sometimes, I'm more likely to forgive errors in real life facts (where I assume they used a bad reference source) than when they get their own made up facts wrong. It looks sloppy.

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  6. This is so true and one of the elements that brings out my cautious nature. For me, I'm terrified of writing any profession I haven't seen up close. Because I hate, hate, hate it when people portray journalists and magazine editors in an unrealistic fashion. I guess this means I won't be writing a doctor character anytime soon, anyway :-)

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  7. I used to do the same thing Lorelei but now I keep that extra notebook handy as I write and I jot down all pertinent info, character traits, personality traits, timelines, ect. It helps so much!

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  8. Thanks Samantha! I know exactly what you mean, my favorite authors are the one's who know their stuff ;)

    Funny how that works isn't it Lorel? I'm probably more forgiving in real life mistakes than those made in fiction books too!

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  9. I know what you mean Portia. I hate it when I get something wrong in a book. If there's something I don't know about, be it a culture, a profession or something else I do my best to experience it in any way I can before I write about it. It's one of the reasons I love to travel so much!

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  10. A big name author (one of my favorites) made some major mistakes in one of his novels. I forgive him because I like him so much. But when he shows his character placing his hands against a door after establishing that he lost one arm, that gets awfully blatant! It also would have been good to see the character struggling to do things with such a handicap, but the author seemed to ignore that aspect. I do a lot of paintaking work ti ensure I don't make mistakes like that. Sometimes, though they slip by. I just hope I've caught them all. Nadine Liamson

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