We need to be careful when we write that we get our facts straight. ESPECIALLY if historical fiction is involved. At least this seems to be what readers have been complaining about from my own writing, and the character in the novel I’m currently reading (A Widow For One Year from John Irving). Ironic, yes, that the novel that fell into my hands happened to be very pertinent to the conflicts I would encounter while reading it. But how far do we really need to go into researching when we’re writing fiction?
Fiction is something made up; a story that was created through our imagination. How far can we go with what we make up in our story before readers start objecting? In my own experience, it seems you need to get your historical and geographical facts straight. The two things I’m awful with. While editing my second novel, I realized that maybe some of it won’t fly with readers. I keep choosing to write about particular things I don’t necessarily know a great deal about. In this case, farming. In Tearing Honor’s case, religion. Why do I do this? Because I want to see how far I can stretch my imagination. Does that make me a bad writer? I wouldn’t think so.
How much research do you do when you’re writing fiction? I may have Googled a few things to see if I was on the right track. Perhaps my next goal should be to spend more time researching before I dive into writing. Writing as a part of NaNoWriMo eliminates that extra time you can spend researching. So far, I’ve only written novels as a part of NaNoWriMo, returning to it a few months later to give major edits.
So my next novel, I plan to try a more traditional approach to writing. Set my own deadlines so that I can do that extra research. We’ll see how readers react when my facts are straight. Our society has been raised to rely on facts for everything, I’m not surprised readers want to hear the truth.
Ruth, from the John Irving book I’m reading, only writes about what she doesn’t know. She gets dozens of pieces of mail from people who have actually experienced what she’s written about, tearing down her work for being inaccurate. Is it wrong to make up facts? I can see it being a problem when you’re claiming it to be true, but if you label it as fiction, then what’s the problem?
*I currently don’t have a stance on this. I need to write a little bit more to get a better feel for whether researching my facts or just having fun and making them up makes for better writing. I can see myself leaning toward research being better for writing, but at this moment, I don’t feel I can claim that.*
Go ahead, discuss. How much fiction is too much?