writers tips / writing

Writer’s Tip #26: Be Authentic

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

Today’s tip: Make sure your facts are accurate.

One reason readers enjoy a book is insider knowledge–learning from the author while enjoying the story. You don’t teach and you don’t want to be pedantic, but when you discuss a topic, be sure you are accurate.

For example, I write action thrillers, which include a lot of military details. I wrote a scene about a British submarine and had a friend read a draft. The first thing he noticed was the submarine I used was no longer active. The class of subs was, but not that particular sub. Ooops.

You get one mistake in a book. But that’s it.

And once you’ve lost credibility, it’s gone. Then readers believe nothing of what you say. True, as fiction writers, we can make up a plot, but if there is a factual base out there, we must use it. We can’t say Robert Parker wrote 200 books and hide under the auspices of fiction.

Willing suspension of disbelief starts with fact checking. Our readers will willingly suspend their disbelief if we’re believable.

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4 thoughts on “Writer’s Tip #26: Be Authentic

  1. Hello ladies, this post pretty much sums up where I am now with my own novel. Like Cheri said, the level of research is daunting, truly daunting, because I never know how much research will be ‘enough’, if you know what I mean. With my enthusiasm, it could go on forever!

    I’m doing a lot of cross-referencing into the 1950’s right now and I’ve been looking into bus routes and companies that were active back then. It’s a historical novel, so now there’s this incredible pressure for honesty, because the people who lived back then are still alive. They remember everything that happened, especially the war and what it was like. At this point, anything I write sounds off, because I’m getting to know the territory where my story takes place.

    So far I’ve compiled a master list of what I need to learn, and it’s growing by the day. It’s all trial and error, but it’s fascinating what you discover along the way!


  2. This is such a great point, Jacqui. And the amount of detail required for the authenticity can be daunting.

    There have been times in both of my novels when I went into research mode for days, taking tons of notes, pinning up pictures all around my office, sinking into the minutiae of the scene/era. Then the end result might only be a couple of paragraphs in the story.

    But if those paragraphs aren’t accurate, the whole rest of the chapter (or even the book) can be compromised.


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