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How to Avoid Pissing Off Readers

angry woman

As I mentioned in this week’s post on my personal website, inaccuracies and factual errors in stories upset the most tolerant of us. Fortunately, there are numerous things we writers can do to avoid ticking off our readers.

Internet Research

The world is at your fingertips. You are writing a fight scene that takes place in a Russian bath house, but you’ve never been to one. Never fear. Google it my friend. You will find enough photos and videos of bath houses to be able to describe them in exquisite detail.

If you were to look at my Google searches for today you would find:

  • What does gun oil taste like?
  • What’s the Spanish word for skull?
  • How many people fit in a military helicopter?
  • How long can you live with a stab wound to the gut?

Don’t worry. These searches were for my zombie urban fantasy series. No need to put me under psychiatric evaluation….yet.

The internet isn’t perfect and you should always fact check the information you glean against other sources. However, it does provide a wonderful place to start.

Field Visits & Interviews

Visiting the locations featured in your novels, and interviewing people who are similar to your characters are excellent ways to improve the realism of your stories. If your main character is a Funeral Director, try tracking one down and seeing if they will answer some questions. Better yet, ask if they can give you a tour of their mortuary (fun for the whole family).

Don’t be shy. Take advantage of opportunities to spend time in places (and with people) that will star in your stories. For example, when Dreamer Dwarf was stranded in the vehicle repair shop, I jumped at the opportunity to join her. One of the scenes I was working on took place in a similar location. After dumping my dwarfing at her feet, I ran up to the harried looking store manager and started peppering him with questions about his shop.

As soon as he found out that I was writer, he was thrilled to talk to me. He answered all of my questions and he even pointed out specialized tools on the service floor. Of course, as soon as I asked him if he thought a horde of zombies could break through the bay doors, he suddenly got too busy to chat. Even still, I left with enough information to take my auto shop scene to the next level.

Write What You Know

This is standard advice doled out to writers like toothbrushes at the dentist’s office. There is no denying the advantage in being able to describe, with rich authenticity, the places you’ve lived and the experiences you’ve had.

I spent nearly nine years of my life working for a law enforcement agency. If I ever decide to write any crime fiction or feature police officers in any of my books, I’ll bet dollars to donuts (cops hate that association by the way) that I’ll probably have an edge over someone who has never set foot in a police station.

These are just a few methods I use to strengthen the validity of my stories. What other suggestions do you have for preventing inaccuracies and adding realism to stories?

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