ACCURACY IN FICTION
By Randy Rawls
Now, that's a headline that might have you thinking ol' Randy has lost touch with reality. After all, the first definition of fiction in my Random House Webster Unabridged dictionary is: 1. the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration, esp. in prose form. So, if it's imagination, what's with the accuracy bit?
Well, I love history—don't claim to know as much as I should (or could), but I enjoy the parts I have studied. High in my interest is the history of our country, pre and post-Revolutionary War—and that includes its possessions and territories.
Fortunately, we live in an age when research of our country's history is as easy as hitting a few keys. So, I'm amazed when an author makes a glaring historical error in a book—an error that plays a large part in the story. Then, I am doubly amazed when I consider that the manuscript went through an agent to a publisher, through the publisher's editing process, and made it onto the bookshelf. Yet, it happens—all too often.
I recently started a story that drove this point home to me again. Since I don't want to get sued, I'll change a few particulars as I whine about it.
Let's say the book opens in 1830 in New Mexico. An immediate problem. The area we now call New Mexico was a part of Mexico in 1830, and New Mexico, even New Mexico Territory, did not exist. Continued: a person is accused of violating U.S. law by importing an illegal substance. Problem. It's Mexico, so U.S. law is not in play. Furthermore, there is a reference to Russian spies and several other facts I'm now doubting. A few paragraphs later, I'm well into "Huh?", the book goes flying, and the author has lost a potential fan. To add insult to injury, these facts occurred in the first few pages.
The writing (or the bit I read) was tight, seemed to open an interesting story, and the dialogue was believable. So why didn't the author take a few minutes and make the historical aspects of the story accurate? And why didn't someone in the chain catch his flagrant errors and demand he fix them?
Beats me, but I refuse to read a book where an author is as lazy (or whatever) as this one.
How about you?