Sunday, January 18, 2015

Just the Facts

“Hurry, man, we got to get there before they kill her!”

I hit the siren and lights and headed north on Broadway while Rick called it in. We headed north on Broadway, turned left onto Park and then right onto Thirty-Seventh. I slowed when I saw the bodies on the pavement in the glare of flashing blue lights in front of the white Cape Cod with its doors blown wide open.

Exciting stuff, except totally inaccurate.

This past year I had the privilege of judging manuscripts for three different literary competitions. I looked for all the usual items: well developed, engaging characters, well defined settings, strong conflict, plot, a character arc for our lead character, error free mechanics, and last, but not least, no anachronisms or factual mistakes. Nothing stops me short more than seeing people spending pesos in Morocco, or dinars in Mexico; or like, the example above, mixed up geography. There is a difference in the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. If you drive a pick-up, you don't have a trunk in which to hide the body. 

You might write a great story, but if you make me stop and think about a fact to the point I have to go look it up on Google or in my home dictionary/encyclopedia, then you are not going to win that round in my book.

When I am editing, if I have an inkling that a fact may be inaccurate, I will look it up and let the author know he/she’s made a mistake and needs to check the facts. When I’m judging, I don’t have that ability; I can only go by what I’m reading. Your great story will miss the boat if you haven’t taken the time to get the facts straight.

And believe me, I’m checking. Always checking.

In my own books, especially the period pieces, I spend more time researching the eras than I do writing the stories. I can’t have characters staying at a hotel that did not exist when my characters lived; nor can they use transportation in advance of their time. On the same note, they would not use a horse and buggy in the 21st century unless they are Amish or reenacting.

So, if you’re planning to submit your work, please, check your facts.

Veronica Helen Hart is the author of three historical novels and two cozies. Two more books are scheduled for release this spring. You can see more about her writing at


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Amen to that!

I've begun reading some freebees on Amazon and found errors that will one day make their authors cringe. When in doubt always look up and fact check your work.

Opportunity only knocks on the best doors.

Veronica Helen Hart said...

Right after writing the blog I picked up one of the freebies, "Murder in the South of France," because I loved my time there and I enjoy murder mysteries. Within the first couple of pages the protagonist made a phone call in the early afternoon to her home in Atlanta (USA) where it was "eight in the evening." Grrr.

Big Mike said...

Accuracy is paramount cause the readers will catch ya.


KMTolan said...

Yeah, I remember having to research how to crank up a steam locomotive. Even in fantasy there is a measure of credibility needing to be maintained. Bless Google.


Keith Willis said...

"Credibility is a currency which should not be spent recklessly."

You make an excellent point, Veronica. I write fantasy, so to a certain extent I make it up as I go along. But even so there are things that need to be consistent, make sense, and have an element of reality about them. If your readers perceive what they consider to be glaring errors you lose that credibility, and then you lose your readers.