March 10, 2012

Truth in Fiction/Non-Fiction

I've always been puzzled when readers point out that a novel contains factual inaccuracies and people respond by saying, "It's fiction, who cares?" A historical romance caught my eye the other day, and I briefly considered downloading it until I read the reviews. Several people who read the book stated that the numerous circumstances described either occurred too early or simply wouldn't have happened at all. Between those remarks and the complaints about a meandering storyline and three and four typos on a single page (I'm sorry to say it was an indie published eBook), I decided to stick to Beverly Jenkins, who makes a concerted effort to present accurate information to readers (and in the process informs us about facts we probably previously did not know).  

I believe that writers owe it to their audiences to present as factual a story as possible, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, or current or historical. I am stunned by the mistakes readers have pointed out in nonfiction, like dates, for instance. Imagine writing a book that states that Columbus first set foot in the Americas in 1491! Okay, that's an extreme example, but if people buy a book to learn more about a subject they already know and incorrect information is given, they're probably going to spot it. I love movies, and I've seen books that made errors in release dates and the year of Best Picture Oscar wins. Even one error is unfortunate but is at least forgivable. Multiple inaccurcies is not.

Do you have any thoughts about inaccurate facts in fiction or nonfiction?


PatriciaW said...

Ms. Jenkins is one of my favorites. Her historical knowledge and research is unparalleled.

Interesting, I think this is more about indie publishing and the greater importance of trusted reviews for these titles than for traditionally published books. On one hand, for the low prices some indie titles are offered, readers may be willing to take a chance. On the other, because these authors may not have much if any presence in the book market, reviews are very important. I don't tend to read reviews for traditionally published books much, but I do read them before downloading indie titles.

bettye griffin said...

Patricia, misinformation exists in traditionally published titles, too. I actually read a traditionally published title recently that depicted a poor single mother who got either a wealthy boyfriend or a dishonest brother to spring for tickets for her and her two children to visit the Caribbean on a spur-of-the-moment trip. Their circumstances didn't support them having passports, which you now need to leave the US, nor can passports be processed within a matter of days (I'm told that Tyler Perry shows a similar misleading situation in his new movie). I enjoyed the book, but the author has lost some credibility for me. I dislike feeling like I'm spinning into a fantasy world...and anyone who thinks they can simply buy an airline ticket and travel to Jamaica or elsewhere without a passport might be in for a rude awakening if they try it!

You read a lot more than I do, so you would have a better idea of how often these impossible-in-real-life situations actually occur.

DonnaD said...

I'm willing to take a flyer when it comes to some improbabilities in reading. Sometimes. It really depends on the genre I happen to be reading. If it's a thriller, I take a leap of faith. My biggest hangup is when the story jumps in time and/or place and I can't figure any logical reason for it and there's no transition. That makes me nuts.

bettye griffin said...

Donna, I'm not a thriller reader myself, but I suspect I'd probably hold this genre to the same standard as the other fiction I red. I do like the occasional suspense novel, and I have to say I wouldn't want to see anything impossible in those. Time jumps definitely make me crazy as well!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!