If the facts aren’t right, the book’s all wrong.

The flowers may look real, but they aren't. Good books don't try to fool readers.


THESE FLOWERS MAY LOOK REAL, but they aren’t. It’s a shame that some good books try to fool people.

Here’s a case in point.

I received a few chapters of a book as part of an online critique group.

Under the group’s rules any member can send a section of work in for critique and members are under no obligation to critique it unless they choose to do so.

The particular section was from a romance book, which isn’t my cup of tea, but I looked at it anyway.

The main plot point up front concerns a young woman’s loss of her family’s homestead as a result of a tragic car accident she caused. She lost the homestead because the survivors of a person killed in the accident obtained a multi-million dollar judgment against the heroine, and the sheriff auctioned the old home place off to the highest bidder to help satisfy the judgment.

The story is set in West Texas.

It’s a sad tale, and a heartbreaking way to kick off a book.

The problem is that under Texas law a person’s homestead is exempt from that sort of forced sale. The folks who settled Texas were by and large running from the law back east, and they made darn sure anyone attempting to collect a debt in the great state of Texas would have an uphill battle.

The author who wrote the piece has an engaging, fun style. So I’m not throwing rocks at her.

I’m only pointing out that if the set up for a book hangs on a legal principle, the author should research the legal point to make sure she has it right.

The same is true with so many details in books.

If a person writes about guns, she needs to know a revolver from a semi-automatic pistol.

If she describes the state capitol building she needs to know whether it looks like the national capitol building, the Taj Mahal or a WalMart Super Center.

Those details give a made-up story the feel of authenticity.

And authenticity draws in the reader and corroborates the rest of an author’s story.

Stephen Woodfin is the author of The Compost Pile.



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