How Important Is Real World/Historical Accuracy in Fiction
I guess the answer to this question should be simple—if the work is fiction then real world/historical accuracy should not matter. But for me, as a writer, this area has often disturbed me. I want to create a fictional world but certain things and subjects, such as royalty, culture, and environments have stumped me and made me feel that the story won’t be believable or that it won’t be taken seriously if I do not research and try to be somewhat accurate.
For example, in one of my stories that I have written, the characters are of royal descent. But I know little about royal titles and roles, so as I wrote the story, I made things up. Through reading the story back I felt, from a reader’s point of view, that it would be nice to know about the titles and roles that are within a royal life. So I felt I had to do research.
Another example is having characters of a certain cultural or ethnic background. In another story some of my characters are of Italian descent, although their background doesn’t have much to do with the plot of the story or how they react to situations—it is there mainly to introduce and describe them. I often wondered if it is even necessary to add information such as that if it will mean nothing in the story.
One last example is environment. In the current story I am writing, I created a fictional environment but I placed its location somewhere in the Middle East. Now that can change as I revise the story, but unless I do some research, I feel I would have to remove the Middle East and just make up an unknown and nonexistent land in order to make the environment believable.
These things and more make me think closely about accuracy in fiction. From the books I have read, when I see descriptions of environment, culture/ethnicity, and titles, there has been research, even if simple, done to give the reader a sense of understanding of the plot that often can bring the story and character to life. As I think about it, research for accuracy does not have to be extensive, especially if the story is fictional and the plot is focused on other things than what is being researched, but it shouldn’t be completely ignored.