GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT
You’d think this goes without saying.
You’d be wrong.
I have two examples. In the telling (yeah, I’m going to tell, not show…sort of), I’ll allude to the guilty parties but will not slander those particular people by stating their names.
FICTION IS A MAKE-BELIEVE WORLD, RIGHT?
Well…ah, yeah, it is. The story you’re telling is made up. It’s a huge lie you’re hoping people will like so you can become world renown and people will pay for it, right?
Even though it’s a big lie, it’s a known big lie. However, that doesn’t mean there should be no realism to it. That doesn’t mean you have free reign to throw out all rules of reality and make your story so ridiculously unbelievable that even a kid can’t believe it.
There has to be a basis of reality to any story. There has to be some foundation in physics, hard science and factual thingies to make your big lie believable or your reader is going to put it down. I know I certainly would.
There are a lot of people smarter than you. It goes without saying. When you write something you know, you’re bound to get most of the factual thingies correct, or close enough for guv’mint work, as I like to say. When it comes to fine details, there’s nothing wrong with going vague. There’s also nothing wrong with throwing in little known real facts that only experts would know. That comes with research.
However, there are always going to be people with technical expertise, people who’re super-duper experts in any field that you’re writing about. They’ll catch you on all those real facts you get wrong.
If you don’t do your research, you can trip up and lose respect right off. Most readers probably won’t even notice, but those select few may slam you with bad reviews. For those that read reviews, especially the bad ones, they may or may not think twice about reading more of your work.
Knowledge or technical experts are the ones you have to satisfy, at least to the best of your ability, when you add in details, minor and major. You need to get them right!
So, that means don’t take anything for granted. If you generalize, make sure you accurately generalize, and if you use little known facts, make sure they’re accurate little known facts. Also make sure you use them in context!
I’ll give the perfect example based on a book I just proofread. Keeping things vague so not to slam the author, who’s actually a decent author in some ways, this story took on a personal issue with me when he/she got some (okay, a bunch of) facts wrong that I have direct personal knowledge of. To an average reader, these “facts” might go unnoticed. They might even be accurate to them because they’re the popular stereotype. However, to those of us who’ve dealt with this kind of ignorance many times in the past, the lack of knowledge, whether from sheer lack of research or bias was inexcusable.
This author is setting his or herself up to polarize themselves at the expense of sloppy work. There’s no reason for it when a bit more effort could avoid a huge issue in the future.
The second example is a very highly regarded and popular author. He just came out with a new novel. I read it and loved it. When I turned in my review, I, as usual, checked the negative reviews to see why people didn’t like it. Instead of the usual stupid stuff like the Kindle wasn’t working correct, I was shocked to see how many substantial one and two star reviews were there, plus all the people that replied to the reviews! Apparently the author didn’t do his research on a multitude of issues, none of which I picked up on because I had no expertise in those areas. However, these technical experts did, and the author lost a significant number of fans because of it.
There was no reason for this if the author had just gone to the right people. He’s big enough to have the resources to do just that. No “Any errors are my own” excuse in the book is going to compensate for that. By the way, there is no such statement in the book to begin with. This author doesn’t bother.
WE CAN’T ALL BE EXPERTS BUT…
We can’t all be experts in everything we write about and nobody expects us to. The whole point of this is that we do our best, and make an effort to get the facts as good as we can. If we’re not sure, leave them vague. If we’re really going way out there, so to speak, that can’t be helped, but we need to find some way to make our story as believable as possible. The best way is to make the little things as accurate as possible.
Get names correct.
Get places correct.
Get lore correct.
Get hardware correct.
Get effects correct (such as weapon use).
Get religion correct.
Get history correct.
Get the science correct…well…as correct as you can within context.
Get the context correct.
This is only part of the list, but it gives you an idea of what to do.
The quality you put into creating your big lie will show and be appreciated by your readers.