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A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A to Z : G is for Getting it Right

So, you're writing a story. And it's set here on earth. And the genre is something other than fantasy or paranormal.

Then it's best to get every little fact right. (Fantasy and paranormal give you a little wiggle room).

A reader can be shoulder deep in suspending their disbelief, and they come across a fact, the smallest mention, even a seemingly insignificant detail, and they know it's wrong. It sucks them out of the story faster than you can say, "Well that isn't right!"

I read a book a couple of years ago, a fiction thriller. I bought it after reading a tweet full of praise for it. The author was a PhD. And the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon showed that the book had great potential.

It was a big book. Almost 700 pages. Lots of action that held me on the edge of my seat. It was hard to put down. Although there were consistent small typos, the story was so good I skimmed right over mistakes. I kept thinking, this guy is a genius; the things he knows about! Each time his character delved into highly technical stuff, I thought about how much work the author must have gone to, to write it.

Weapons, vehicles, helicopters, geography, medicine, governments, the list went on and on.

It was so good, I even tweeted to the author that the pages were on fire; I couldn't turn them fast enough.

As I read, I kept thinking about the review I would leave. In all fairness, I knew I had to make mention about the typos or actual spelling errors.

And then, almost at the end of the book...it happened.

I read something that I knew was flat out wrong. If the author had taken ten or fifteen minutes to Google it, he'd have known it was wrong, too. But he didn't. And that was enough that I lost all confidence in his facts being right.

I opted not to leave a review... over a small detail that had cast doubt over everything I'd once thought the author a genius for.

When you write fantasy and paranormal, yep, magical things happen. The laws of physics can even bend via magic. But if you're writing something that could not occur here on earth--and you're doing it in a genre that leaves no squirm room, you'd best get it right. :-)


  1. Great advice! As an author, you don't always think, "Hey, I should Google that," because you think, "Hey! I've got this! I've done all this research already! Also, I learned this in the 8th grade! I know this!" Only thing, you remembered it WRONG! Researching is good and VERY important!


  2. Thanks, SM. :-) Excellent points you make. Especially about remembering wrong. I just visited your site and I see that you are big on research. Kudos!

  3. I'm a serious reader, (5/6 books a week, when I'm not A2Zing) and I've done that myself a few times...it funny how it does completely ruins it! if I ever wrote a book (in another life maybe) it would have to be factually right...couldn't stand to do anything else.
    Great advice...really more important that some will realise, from a readers point of view.
    On the A to Z Challenge Maggie@expatbrazil.

  4. I write historical with a touch of fantasy. Love it when the magic happens. Thanks for stopping by my blog. And good luck with the A-Z Challenge.

  5. As a historical writer, it's one thing to write a scenario that would've been unusual or uncommon for the era or situation, but still in the realm of plausibility if it's explained well and circumstances come together in the right way. It's entirely another to write about something that never could've happened, even with very unlikely odds.

    One of the sources I've discovered lately is the online Historical Dictionary of American Slang. It's helped me to get rid of some inadvertent errors and find decade-accurate replacements. If not for that dictionary, I wouldn't have known, for example, that the term "hanging out" only came about around the mid-Sixties, or that "dork" wasn't an insult word yet in the Forties.

  6. Fantasy writers do research too just to see what's out there. there's no reason to have incorrect facts on anything. There used to be a tv show burn notice that had a narration at the beginning and taught you everything you had to know about spying or technology or firearems. I always said writers and criminals woud learn a lot from it (excuse the spelling - computer issues and I'm trying to catch u)

  7. I just spent half an hour or so on google over 508 words. 700 pages, and you should do some research. And yeah fantasy writers need to research too :)

    scruffy-duck.net // Welsh Bloggers

  8. So true! I know this is a movie, not a book, but I got taken right out of Gravity almost from the start - despite the tension and attention to detail in weightlessness - because they had Hubble and ISS and another station practically nose to tail in the same orbit. Convenient for the plot, and not something most people would notice, but for someone like me who takes an interest in these things it was a "You gotta be kidding me" moment.