Sunday, June 11, 2017

Get the facts straight in fiction if you expect readers to believe your lies.

As writers, we must strive for verisimilitude. (Repeat after me: vera suh MILL uh tood. I learned that from Charlie Sweet and Hal Blythe.) 
That’s a fifty-dollar word meaning: “The appearance of being true or real.” 
We must convince readers that the “real facts” are true so they will believe the “fake facts” we present in our novels. You've got to get the facts straight in fiction if you expect readers to believe your lies.

Like the damned hit man who screws a silencer onto a revolver.
The gasses [hence the noises] escape through the cylinder, not the barrel.
Putting a silencer on a revolver is like putting a rubber on a banana. 
It looks interesting but does nothing at all.

If you have a character walking south on 61st Street in Manhattan, where all numbered streets run east and west, you can be sure someone will let you know.

When we authors make a mistake in research, when our facts aren't correct, our readers may lose their willing suspension of disbelief and never get it back. They may stop reading. They say, “If he can’t get the damned gun right, how do I know anything else is true?”

The relationship between a reader and a writer is one of trust. Readers trust you to help them suspend their natural disbelief so they can enjoy your book. They want to enjoy your book. They want to believe you. However, anything you do to remind them that this story is really not true will jolt them back to reality and it can be enough to make them stop reading.
No matter how arcane or narrow the subject about which you're writing, there’s going to be someone, somewhere, who knows all about the subject.

In fact, it’s not what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you think you know. Because you think you know it, you don’t bother to check it out.

I use three basic forms of research: online fact-checks, talking to experts, and taking photos of real places and things.
I wait to do the majority of my research until I've written my first rough draft because then I can tell what it is I need to know. In other words, I only research what I need to know to start writing the book, then I wait and do the rest of the research after I have finished the secret draft.

A friend of mine spent his afternoons researching police procedure because he was writing a mystery. I suggested he begin writing the book, then research what he finds out he actually needs to know.
In other words, don't study The History of Clothing Removal to write about a stripper. Don't spend weeks pouring over everything you can find about police procedure in North America just because you're going to have one scene in your book featuring a police officer. You’re better off talking to a police officer once you figure out what you need to know.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews