Monday, December 04, 2006

I read an interesting article the other day. The author sprinkled in bits of humor that made it fun to read. Except…they cited a stretch of highway on IH10 from Port Charles, Louisiana to Beaumont, Texas.

Um…Port Charles is the fictional town from General Hospital.

Living fairly close to the area the author described, I knew the name of the city is actually Lake Charles. While it didn’t make me dislike the author, it did pull me from an otherwise captivating story.

Another example: I read a wonderful book last month. The characters were funny, the setting vivid. Except…the heroine drove a silver Beamer. Now, BMW aficionados will quickly inform you that the correct spelling is Bimmer and the pronunciation is German.

I know, I know. These are petty examples, and yet…the editor in me was a little irritated that two such easily verified facts were overlooked. Suddenly, the author’s credibility was questionable. What else wasn’t right?

New authors, especially, make the mistake of thinking that only writers of historical fiction need to research what they write. Nothing could be further from the truth. Readers are smart. They want to believe you know what you’re talking about, and they trust that you do—until you don’t. After that, it’s very difficult to win that reader back, which makes getting it right the first time doubly important.

There are different means to accomplishing this. Some writers stop what they’re doing and conduct the research immediately. I like to highlight the information I’m questionable about. That way I’m sure to catch it later, but I can still continue writing without interruption. Either way you can be certain of one thing. Readers want truth and accuracy, even if it is all fiction.


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