I think the key is consistency. I’m not a SEAL and I’m not an FBI agent, and even with years of research, I’m still going to get some details wrong….I believe that as a fiction writer my job is to entertain. Thus, I’m always walking a tight rope between accuracy and entertainment.
Sometimes, I think that we, as writers, think too much. Reason too much. This could never happen, we think. Should never happen. Not in the real world. And we might research and get stuck and try to write ourselves out of holes and we cross that line between writing fiction and trying to write what would happen in real life.
But we’re not writing non-fiction. And while accuracy – or non-accuracy – can pull readers out of story because of factual inconsistancies (and even then, you’ve got to remember that accuracy is so relative in many, many cases that you’re never going to please everyone) you’ve got to remember that people are reading your stories for the emotional satisfaction, not the facts.
For example, I’ve read some posts that complain about the way heroes and heroines act – mainly the big one seems to be that the heroine acts like she can take on the world and not listen to the experts even though she has no experience in saving anyone ever. But really, danger and adreneline can make people act in ways they’ve never acted before, so I tend to disagree. It’s the whole, I’d do anything to save my family, thing, and I think it’s pretty real.
This is coming from someone who will go downstairs by herself if she hears a noise. It’s instinct and I don’t stop to think – I just go.
And really, if everyone in fiction behaved rationally and realistically, I might not ever read again.
Reminds me of what Stephen King says in On Writing when he discusses the success behind Grisham’s The Firm:
Audiences also enjoyed the lawyer’s resourceful efforts to extricate himself from his dilemma. It might not be the way most people would behave, and the deus ex machina clanks pretty steadily in the last fifty pages, but it is the way most of us would like to behave. And wouldn’t we also like to have a deus ex machina in our lives?
*heads to yellow pages to buy self a deus ex machina*
Oh, and I’m doing the prize this week for the Sven challenge. I’ve got tons of books, including the War of Art and Sun Signs for Writers, a black and red notebook that’s awesome for journaling in and other fun stuff.
Don’t forget to go over and let Sven know how you did for the week! And I’ll draw the winner from this weeks list of challengers!