Research. How important is it?

September 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm

When you read a novel, particularly an historical one, are you the kind of person who is upset if you can see it’s not historically accurate?

I know a lot of people do get upset at this type of thing. Being a pedantic person, I have avoided writing an historical novel so far, because I know I’d have to make sure I had EVERYTHING right before I finished it. If even one person came back to me and said, ‘This isn’t right!’ I would be devastated.

Of course, having written a science fiction novel, people can still say to me, ‘This is not scientifically possible. You can’t say that!’ But I can always fudge and say, ‘Well, maybe it’s not possible for us, but for another species it might be.’ So there’s a bit more flexibility.

But is making sure a novel doesn’t conflict with the real world that important? Is it something we have to ensure is correct, so much so that we must go to extensive lengths to guarantee it?

I have read novels that haven’t seemed to care much about historical accuracy, and I’ve still enjoyed them. Sometimes, however, if the mistakes are glaringly obvious, it does take me out of the story. However, I think most of the time it shouldn’t be that big an issue, especially if it is a work of fiction and the setting is just a background for the story. After all, why do we write stories? Do we write them to worry about making sure the background is perfect before we begin? Yes, we should make sure that it is plausible, just as we should make sure that as many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors as possible are removed from our books. But usually one or two of those do sneak in, and if you’re story is entertaining enough, people don’t even notice them.

I think it’s the same with historical accuracy in a novel. Try your best to make it plausible, but don’t stress about every little detail.

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