Yesterday I was speaking to a coworker—ever notice how many of my posts start from my conversations—and I’d made a comment about a technicality my sister caught in my current ms. I’d mentioned something about a character firing three people without a severance or their 401k. My sister—a human resources director—told me that’s against the law. So I’d needed to change it. No matter what happened, the person was entitled to their 401k since it was money they invested.
This is another example of the value of “readers” because I would’ve never known that. Well, my coworker was like, “Who cares, its fiction!”
I had to explain to her that even in fiction you need facts. Everyone on my job, with the exception of those few who have actually read my writing, think I write nothing but Harry Potter type novels, when in fact, I’ve never written anything remotely close to the Potter universe—other than fanfiction.
To make this coworker understand, I had to point out all the inaccuracies in hospital shows—as we are medical professionals. It’s frustrating for the doctors and nurses I work with to watch their work being so inaccurately portrayed on screen. I said, “That’s fiction, but you want to be accurate, right?”
She understood, I guess, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when she thinks of my writing she envisions people flying around on broomsticks, worried about their 401k’s.
This scenario had me thinking about how much we are willing to suspend our belief while reading fiction. Or watching movies and tv. I just recently saw Salt and, as with most action movies, you have to suspend your belief somewhat so you can go on the ride the director has planned. Watching people accomplish impossible feats and come out unscathed is sometimes hard to sit through without rolling your eyes, but when it’s done correctly, we buy it.
With my current novel, the main character has psychic dreams. Is this real? Who knows? I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone who could tell the future through their dreams. Have I had foreboding dreams? Yes. But out right showing the future, nope, never had, never met anyone with that ability. So to me, everything outside of that one paranormal activity needed to be grounded in fact for this particular story to work. It may change with other novels I write, but as I’m probably always going to write earth bound novels, there will be certain facts that I’ll have to keep intact.
How about you guys? Do you think a lot about the facts you put in your novels? Do you research, ask people who may be in the know, even if you’re writing fantasy and sci-fi? If you have some examples, leave them in the comments.