A few days ago I came across a comment in one of Miss Snark's posts. Aside #1 - I'm sorry I'm not giving the exact post permalink but Miss Snark posts often and has so many comments to each of her posts that it would be hard for me to track down the exact post. Aside #2 - Miss Snark's blog is one of the best agent blogs around. If you're interested in the subject of agents and writers you should definitely read her blog daily, and even then I doubt you'd keep up. Aside #3 - this is not to say that Agent 007 isn't one of the best agent blogs. Quite the contrary. If interested in the subject, you should read this one too.
Okay, back to the subject at hand. So I came across this comment about how it irritates people to find inaccuracies in fiction books they read. Let's be clear about the kinds of accuracies I'm talking about here - accuracies about facts from the real world, not plot inaccuracies. To my astonishment, most people felt the same way. They were annoyed if historical facts got confused, annoyed if car models were used inadequately, annoyed if geographical tidbits were wrong.
I say 'to my astonishment' because I could never care less. If I read fiction, I assume everything in the book is fiction, including scientific, historical and geographical facts used to tell the story. (Maybe that's why I couldn't understand what the big deal was with The Da-Vinci Code, it was fiction after all.)
Naturally, I started thinking. Why is my attitude different from so many others, and what is the right attitude if at all.
With regards to the why part of the questions I decided that it's because I'm coming from the science-fiction genre in which authors easily change history or the laws of physics. In fact, these changes are the basis of many books. It might not be called "changing facts" per se, but authors use devices such as time travel to change history. Similarly, authors don't "break" the laws of physics, but have scientists develop past these laws. And so on.
But what about mainstream/mystery/romance novels where the characters are fully integrated in our world? What about historical fiction where characters live our history? How correct should the facts be in these genres? How real should the fiction be?
As far as I'm concerned - not very. For example, I'm not deterred from watching shows which supposedly are based in real life like House and Traders, even though they don't really depict what's going on in real life. However, as far as most people go, fact accuracy does matter. I don't know how aggravating inaccuracies would be to most readers, nor the point at what point they would put the book down saying, 'enough with this crap.' Maybe it's something authors should consider. Then again, maybe it's not. Depends on the author I guess.
Categories: writing, fiction