Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fact or Fiction?

The wisdom shouts "Write what you know" which is tricky to follow when I've never been in a room when a body is found, nor do I surround myself with somewhat shady characters (unless I have completely misjudged my friends). Does this wisdom apply to settings as well?

None of my stories take place anywhere near where I live. I can't put a story here - it's just wrong. I know many of you do place your characters in your own 'backyard' but I can't seem to be able to. All my plots take place overseas (and at least 60 years ago)- which makes research a mite tricky.
I've scoured the web for photos (thank you Google maps), read countless travelogues. perused through old magazines but I can't actually go there. I have found the British TV series "Foyle's War" to be immensely helpful - for what I can see in the background. By the way, if you want to enjoy a fantastic mystery series watch it!

The actual house in my first book is fictional - but it's placed outside a real village - but I need the village and countryside of 60 years ago. Here's the rub: I understand that if your story takes place in New York or Chicago or Paris you'd better get the location (i.e. street names, intersections, etc.) correct if you don't want to upset the citizens of that fair city, let alone anyone who has ever visited there. My story takes place in the past. I can make it as correct as possible, but aside from time travel I'm fairly stuck. I do plan to travel to check the topography of the area and to answer certain questions - what birds can I see? Is the river fast-flowing or slow? How cold is it?

How much fact should be in our fiction? How much fact is in yours? Do you stick rigidly to reality or do you play with it a smidgen?


  1. Well, it is after all, fiction. So, while trying to be as factually accurate as possible, I don’t get too upset if I can’t confirm a certain point right down to a gnat’s butt.

    In your case, with stories written 60-years ago, it’s doubtful anyone would much challenge you on small points. If you can’t find the original data, they probably can’t either. I’m not suggesting sloppy, just a reality check as to practical. Yes, research, get it bang-on if you can. If not, get it darn close and don’t worry. How many of your readers would really 1. notice, or 2. care.

    A couple of places and events in my Book One are totally made up, never happened, don’t exist. They’re necessary because they move the story forward. Never had a complaint about them. It is, after all, fiction.

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  2. If you're using real settings, it's good to be as close to reality as you possibly can. Have you thought about joining an online community that would have people familiar with the area? You could ask questions there.

    Straight From Hel

  3. I can definitely see the advantages of using totally fictitious towns, restaurants, bars, rivers, etc. etc. Up to now, I've mixed real and fictitious, but have mostly written about places I've at least visited. Accurate historical fiction would be much more difficult.


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