What started this meander was thinking about research put into fictional books. It’s true there are some great fiction novels that practically exude “this author researched the heck outta this” and then there are others that exude “aw, come on, that would never happen, what is this, Sci Fi?”.
My own personal style? I’m somewhere in between. As some of you know I love, looooove, love things having to do with American gangsters–usually old school gangsters of the Luciano and Capone sort. I also love the rich history of the FBI and other crime-fighting branches of the US Government. Everyone and their dog knows by now that I love the history of Chicago and the history of Nebraska (the two of which have quite a long history of being connected). My family’s from Chicago, I’ve heard tons of interesting stories. I grew up in Nebraska (for the most part) so I’ve an inherent knowledge of that unique whatever that makes up a Nebraskan.
Does that mean I am 100% accurate all the time in my books? Of course not. And, I will confess, intentionally not. Why? Because I’m telling a story, a fictional story. I took some liberties. Quite a few liberties, as only the purists will know. *waves* Sometimes this is to protect the truth, but most of the time it’s because I think that’s our right as authors, in essence, to say, “Yeah, but what IF it were to happen this way?” So, some things are made up and some things are shout-outs. Some things would never happen (particularly with regard to some of my law enforcement characters), and others are as accurate as I can make it. As a reader, I have always enjoyed sorting out what is an actual place, person or thing, versus what the author just made up. So when I write, I write as that type of reader.
For instance, in The Good Life there’s Castle Corner. Which does not exist. Nor does Anderson Adventures. Yet I have shout-outs to all sorts of places that do exist like The Cornhusker, and Karma nightclub, Lo Sole Mio, Runza, Valentino’s, Mahoney State Park, Roncalli Catholic, and yeesh, many, many more Nebraska things. And while Ashland absolutely does exist (I love that town!), I didn’t even bother to try to be accurate in any shape or form. It’s alternate universe Ashland and Gretna, where the Anderson and Valentini families run amuck. Well, not amuck, but dispense shenanigans on the regular. So, when I write, I’m saying have fun on your scavenger hunt of hidden meanings and clues, but don’t take it so seriously!
Unfortunately, I have discovered there are some readers who find that confusing. For instance, just today I was asked about this passage at the end of The Good Life:“Mmm, I dunno, I usually go for the scruffy nerf-herders instead of peace-keepers,” she pushed him up and tapped the St. Christopher medal around his neck. “But I sense the force is strong with you… Get it? Because you’re on the force…” She dissolved into snorts on her way to the door.
I can totally understand, based on the dialogue, where the reader might ask, oh, is a St. Christopher medal for law enforcement? And no, I have had to answer a number of times already, that is St. Michael, the patron saint of law enforcement. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. I was trying to be clever that Kyle was Demi’s home port, so to speak, after her travels away from Nebraska. But, as my inbox would suggest, I was too “clever”, meaning not clever at all. Haha! Ah well, I’m sure there were plenty of you who didn’t pay it any mind. Just like I’m pretty sure by now my friends connected to the Omaha Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have learned to just “go with it” and have a chuckle at their fictional counterparts. I’m just telling a story here, people!
What was my point?
As usual, I have no real point except to admit that I enjoy when people discover/recognize my nods to history and real places and people that, yes, I did, on purpose, flirt with the “that would never happen” and I was trying to be clever with hidden meanings. I’ll just have to hope my readers forgive me when I fail miserably, haha!
What about you, as a reader or author, how accurate do you like your stories to be?