Readers expect the truth in amongst the lies known as fiction! Why do I say lies? Fiction is one great big lie about the folks living in our heads. And while we fictionalize circumstances, towns, maps, locations, as well as the people living there, there is a certain expectation of reality that our readers want. Can we move a building or structure within a town in order to work an aspect of the story in creatively? Of course. Can we tell an out and out lie about the business or building? Now we’re ruffling the dander of the folks who own or patronize that biz or building. We can fictionalize the circumstances, but can we tell folks that the local McD’s is the hotbed of drug biz in a certain town? Not a good idea. So we might change the name of the fast food joint to accommodate the “lie”.
Can we tell an historic inaccuracy in order to create intrigue in the fiction? Certainly, especially if we have emphasized this in our notes, etc. Otherwise, how do the readers know we are fictionalizing the era? Should the historic nuances be correct? I’m talking about whether or not a Corvette was available in 1930 or not? How about the words on a Burma Shave sign? How about the exact time Rosie the Riveter came to be known? Did they make chocolate chip cookies in England in 1840? Did air industry start in before Columbus came to America? I guess you get my drift…
An entire book might be written about, let’s say Vietnam. A fictionalized battle is fine, few of us have been to or fought in Vietnam, and we want a particular outcome for our characters. Can we do justice to a fictionalized battle? ABSOLUTELY! But be sure that you didn’t use weapons that weren’t in use yet, rocket launchers that had yet to be produced and the like. You have told your reader it’s a piece of fiction to give them the flavor of what happened in ‘Nam, but be sure the accoutrements and such are correct for that period. It will lend a much stronger flavor to your story.
Let’s not come across sounding like Brian. Let’s make our fiction as correct as possible, even a work that uses fact loosely for the sake of the story. After all, 007’s antics weren’t all accurate, but Ian Fleming used as much correct information for that time period as possible. The architecture, landscape, most of the autos, fashion, and the like. And he introduced many fascinating “new” electronics and such to sprinkle salt on the story. He blended fiction with futuristic possibilities giving us the best of both worlds. And none of expected to own cars that could fly or dive under water just because James Bond could. Fleming let us know what to expect and he knew what was expected of him as an author. He didn’t try to convince us that particular items existed; he let our imaginations work with his stories.
Fictionalize and make the story pop, but don’t look like Brian Williams in the process.
Yes, there’s a fine line, but readers know when you’re handing them a load of hooey. And they don’t much like it unless they know it is your intention.
Don’t lie about your lie!