Dealing With Facts in Fiction
Fictional stories are just that – works of imagination and fantasy. Characters, situations, places and events are all made up. But even the most imaginative novels sometimes have to incorporate a sense of realism, and that means authors have to deal with facts.
Facts in fiction may not seem a crucial component, but many authors omit even the basic facts. While this won’t affect the story, it will affect the reader’s enjoyment of it, because a sense of realism helps the reader to immerse themselves, it adds layers to the story.
Getting to grips with facts – and what to include in your story – can be a minefield. Don’t include too many that it reads like a technical brochure, but conversely, don’t leave any facts out that the reader won’t be half as convinced as they would if you’d dropped in a few real snippets.
There are a number of ways to approach how you use facts in storytelling. Often, writers use real places as their setting, but then everything else within the story is fictitious. For example, place names, road names, names of buildings or names of companies could all be fictional in a story that takes place somewhere in France.
This method is common because it allows the writer to put the action in a real place, but they don’t have to worry too much about anything else, because they can make up things like road names, suburbs, other places, buildings, companies and so on that might appear in the story.
Another way is to place the action in a real place complete with actual road names, places, buildings etc. That means it’s vital that you get these facts right. That also means you may have to make sure transport systems, layouts and famous parks etc., are all correct. are correct. If your setting is in London, where there is an abundance of famous landmarks, you can’t leave out any facts.
This approach needs thorough research, especially if you are writing about a location you are not too familiar with or have never visited. It’s important to get the research right, because if you get it wrong, it will be noticed.
The last method is to make everything completely fictitious. That way, the writer has free range about where the story is set, the place names, road names, buildings, names of parks, transport systems, other places, suburbs...in fact, just about anything.
Dealing with facts can get complicated. Research thoroughly, or better still, write what you know. Don’t get bogged down with facts – place enough of them in the narrative throughout the story to give a sense of reality, but don’t overload your writing with them. Remember, the more facts you add, the more likely you are to make an error, and one of your readers will notice, even if you don’t.
Keep it balanced and simple.