Truth or Consequences – Mary Vine

24 Apr

Recently, I read an article in Reader’s Digest titled Fact vs. Film, by Max Glaskin. The piece illustrated how television and movies aren’t always accurate when it comes to police or FBI procedures. On the positive side, wearing a tie is correct; sometimes people are involved in a raid after they are called from their desk job in a pinch. Those extended shotgun barrels can really give an extra two or three cartridges before reloading. On the other hand, too many people moving together in a raid can cause a pile up, making it easy for the bad guy to shoot everyone. And yes, even though you are wearing a bulletproof vest, duck out of the way. With no visible radio, you can only communicate with your squad by body language or shouting. I thought you could communicate without a visible radio, but then I know little to nothing about the field of crime fighting.

Recently my writer’s group had a guest speaker, Vickie Gooch of Idaho State Police. She shared what it’s really like on a crime scene and had pictures to show us, as well. One of the photos was a burn victim, which is hard to forget, so when my favorite police drama came on TV with a burn victim of their own, I was annoyed at the inaccuracy. But then, perhaps we can’t take the truth. I do occasionally turn to my husband and complain about other errors in areas I do know about, but I forget my complaints quickly. In other words, I don’t take it to Facebook. Besides, I know that one of the main objectives for film and television is to entertain in a short amount of time, without too many details.

Books are a different story. Readers want the truth, and have been known to put a book down forever when they’ve been cheated. I heard from one of my readers about a fact I was pretty sure I’d researched correctly. It had to do with looking for mushrooms where white firs grow. Yet, I rechecked with a couple of mushroom hunters and they said I was right. I just thanked the reader for the information. What else can you do?

Often times I buy a book if I like the theme or setting, sometimes even knowing something about the subject myself. My favorite time in history is between 1840 and 1900 and I appreciate the facts. Besides good romance elements in the story, I want my readers to learn something else along the way about the theme, the setting, or a thread through the story. I don’t want to plant seeds of distrust amongst my readers so I do my best to fully research my subject. Above all it’s for the author to decide when detail corrupts the truth. All I can say is if what you’ve written sounds questionable, rewrite the sentence. Basically, I believe my manuscript is not finished until the details match up, for me as well as my readers.


Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Idaho


11 responses to “Truth or Consequences – Mary Vine

  1. Janis

    April 24, 2011 at 8:11 AM

    Thanks for the article, Mary. I agree that truth is the key. The readers have to be invested in the story and if they feel we betrayed their trust, we’ve lost a reader.

  2. Clarissa Southwick

    April 24, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    Thanks for a great post, Mary. This is something I’m struggling with as I try to write a novel based on family stories from the 1950’s. If I wrote it the way it really happened, it would be too long and complex to be entertaining.

    In the end, I’ve chosen to go with entertainment over historical accuracy. So I’m writing it as fiction, shortening the time between incidents, and combining certain events/characters to make them more interesting.

    I’ll put a disclaimer on the story, but I expect the people who were there will shake their heads and say, “She got it all wrong.”

    • maryvine

      April 24, 2011 at 1:37 PM

      Gail – I bet there are lots of people who lived during the 1950s who would be willing to tell you what they know.

  3. Carley Ash

    April 24, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Great blog Mary. I love a book that will teach me something new while I’m enjoying the story.

    • maryvine

      April 24, 2011 at 1:41 PM

      Me, too, Carly. Thanks!

  4. Liz

    April 24, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Excellent blog, Mary! I like fiction that relies heavily upon fact. It’s so much easier to fall into a story when everything is believable – even when it is fantasy.

    • maryvine

      April 24, 2011 at 6:41 PM

      I guess it gives us less to dream up if we get the facts!

  5. johannaharness

    April 24, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    I feel so much better for all the time I spent on research today! 😀

    • maryvine

      April 24, 2011 at 6:42 PM

      Glad you got a chance to do some research today-on a holiday even!

  6. lynn mapp

    April 25, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Thanks for the great post. The devil is in the details.


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