I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of you reading this blog write fiction (or at least primarily so).
Today I want to open it up to a discussion of sorts. I’m going to give an example, give my thoughts on it, then I want you to speak up in the comments section.
When is it okay to bend the rules of reality? And I’m not talking about the obvious here. Meaning I’m not talking about paranormal elements and things like that. I’m talking nitty-gritty reality. The sort of stuff that if your readers were to do a simple search they wouldn’t find something in the first result that contradicts something you wrote.
On a recent episode of the CBS series NCIS the team had to track down someone who’d killed a couple of people by a slow-release injection of ricin. Now, ricin is a very real, very toxic, very poisonous substance.
Well, one of the people who’d been poisoned hadn’t died yet. It was a slow process and all that. This character was told that there was no antidote for ricin and that it was only a matter of time before death came.
After the episode, I did a quick search. I was pretty sure that the guy in the news a couple years ago after making ricin in a hotel room and getting sick himself from it didn’t actually die.
First result that pops up? Ricin isn’t necessarily going to kill you. But it will leave deep-tissue and possibly even organ damage if it doesn’t. And there is an antidote.
It’s bugged me ever since now. And the question I posed earlier is even more vexing. I mean, I am currently writing an urban fantasy so there are clearly rules of nature that I’m violating.
But I’ve been concerned that some of the nitty-gritties aren’t true to life. I’m having to remind myself that sometimes it’s okay to bend the rules and facts of reality. I’m still concerned and maybe I’ll have to tweak some of these details later on. But for now they’re staying because I’m probably the only one in the world who would actually go look something up to verify and fact-check it.
In the end, I think that if it’ll make the story stronger to stick to reality, even if it means you’re going to have to rework the entire status quo changing scene, then stick to reality. If bending the rules makes it better then do it.
What about you? When do you feel it’s okay to bend the nitty-gritties? Do you fact-check random things like I do? Or are you more laid back and just go with the flow?