by Alison Clifford
I write fiction, which means I make stuff up and write it down. Unfortunately the truth gets in the way at times. I couldn’t write a story that had the snow three feet deep on Uluru – unless I was writing something set in a very different time period or after an asteroid strike. While I can take some artistic licence, there are some things that need to be as accurate as possible.
With the romance suspense stories I write I have to research certain aspects so the story seems possible. The advent of TV shows dedicated to forensics and criminal investigations has made this both easier, and harder. Anyone who has watched CSI would think they had a decent idea about certain aspects of forensics, but quite often it’s far from reality. Overworked labs, lengthy waits, and insufficient supplies are the norm. While this can be glossed over in a novel, a detective getting a definite DNA test in a couple of hours is unrealistic.
Settings are also something I try to get close to real, but again a degree of licence is acceptable so long as it’s not too far-fetched. Putting a shop where it doesn’t actually exist is fine, but putting a five star hotel in a poverty stricken suburb won’t work. All of my stories so far are based in the USA and I have researched the locations as best I can by using websites, photos, and Google maps.
So what happens when an important part of the story contravenes reality? Either the story has to be rewritten, or the issue has to be acknowledged and written around. I had a problem in Roses with the growing relationship between Warren and Beth. Warren’s department was investigating the disappearance of Beth’s husband, so technically Warren shouldn’t have allowed their friendship to develop. It is, however, pivotal to the story, so I had to write around it. The solution was to have one of Warren’s friend’s call him on his actions, and Warren to respond to the challenge in a typically Warren way -
“If the Bureau realizes you and Beth are friends, you’ll be off the case with a possible reprimand as well.”
“If I lose the case then I will still be there for Beth as a friend, but I don’t think that will happen. Only a few would know about our friendship, and they would trust me to make the right choice when it counts. Beth is well aware that catching Markov takes priority. She’s never hindered the investigation. As for the reprimand,” Warren shrugged his shoulders, “just add it to the list.”
- (from Roses)
I think that dealing with it in a way that rings true with the character is the best method and makes it plausible.
It’s my job as a writer to tell stories to the best of my ability. Sometimes it can mean walking a fine line between pure fiction and reality, but that’s half the fun of it. For me it adds a bit of magic to the world to have fictional stories woven in to the reality around us.
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All about my writing life: news, research, books I've read, and more.