?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
David D. Levine
20 February 2012 @ 09:11 am
Over on a mailing list I'm on, there's been a discussion about how wrong the movies and TV often are about guns (e.g. how easy it is to hit a target while jumping, running, etc.), which led to a discussion of how wrong fiction often is about other things, like horses and computers.

I've learned that the more you know about anything (computers, horses, guns, medicine), the more you realize that fiction and the popular press get them completely wrong. It's really not a good idea to believe anything you read.

When writing popular fiction, you will never be able to satisfy 100% of your readers with the accuracy of your portrayals (the TV show ER had several doctors on staff as technical advisers, and they often disagreed even with each other), so there's no point in researching too much or worrying too much about getting it 100% right. Furthermore, even completely accurate facts, backed up with research and personal experience, may bounce the reader out of the story if they conflict too much with the reader's expectations. But if you rely only on what you remember from reading fiction, not only will your facts be wrong but the story will be lazy, flabby, and unsurprising.

It's a balancing act. The trick is to do just enough research that you can surprise your readers (the average reader) with unexpected details that make the work feel fresh and realistic.

Often the only way to get to that point is to do too much research and then, reluctantly, leave a lot of the really cool stuff out.