To me, accuracy has always been the end all be all. I grew up not caring about it, but in the past few years, I’ve noticed how important it is. While it goes out the window in movies and shows, there are still those who swear by it.
When you’re writing fiction, the world is in your hands. It is yours to do what you choose with, you create the realism and how things are, you make things the way you see them or how you want them to be. All of that, how the characters react and why, what they say and do and how they move, it’s up to you, but what basis do you go on for what makes it that way?
That was always something difficult for me to remind myself of, especially when writing about something that involves the military. I realized that the type of military was in a totally different universe, so I had the ability to mix and match the values, regulations, rules of any type, all around the world, if I wanted to. There was that level of control. I’m still not finished developing the branch in question, but while I have more friends in the US military, I tend to take from that power the most.
Certain titles and names come from different places around the world, but I’ve used the US system as a base to build up from. On the other hand, I could have made it all up, too, but there should at least be an example that gives you an idea of where to go.
That brings up the question of research, which I shamelessly love.
Writing non-fiction is all about research. It’s digging up links and books and references to the point that you’re making, so much that it becomes countless . It’s the grown version of those papers you did back in high school, in a way.
Research for fiction is different. Writing a police or political thriller, what you find through research can help or hurt where you want to go with the story. It can provide a plot twist or kill an idea and open doors for new ones. Historical fiction, research becomes a little more important.
In conversation with my sister the other night, she mentioned an episode of Doctor Who that had dozens of plot holes, and it was directly tied in to French history. While they have creative license to go about it how they want, there is also a call to keeping things in line, accurate, and making sure things are done correctly. It is the difference between historical while being true to fact, and making up a history on your own. The writer in question did no fact checking, and even came out in saying that he didn’t bother. He just ran with it.
Don’t be intimidated by research. Though it sounds a nasty word, it’s not much more than hitting google and clicking through links that you know or feel are most trustworthy, and there are plenty of resources out there at your disposal.
My friend, after I got into a story about a girl with multiple personality disorder, suggested I talk to a psychologist about case studies on the matter if I wanted to know more. After realizing there was a social worker with a psychology degree at the place I volunteer, I decided to talk to her about the situation, and I got some pretty good information out of it. To my surprise, I was somewhat spot on, but getting a real life example helped a ton.
Other types of research include museums, parks, and going to places in town that have history you’re looking for or writing about. From a guest post, you can find inspiration and information anywhere. Sometimes, it’s right in front of your nose. Even accuracy can be fun!
The devil is in the detail. It all depends on how close you want to be to something, or how you want to portray it.
-The Novice Wordsmith