Let me preface this by saying that this is my own personal opinion. Feel free to disagree…
I know that fiction, by it’s very definition, means the story that I’m reading has been made up. But there has to be some reality in it, something for me to identify with, in order for me to relate with it. I think most people feel this way. Even if it’s a fantasy or science fiction novel, where the world can be created to the author’s liking, there still has to be a hint of reality, something recognizable. If the novel I’m reading falls into that category, then I’ll definitely give it leeway. They can bend the rules of reality as much as they like…as long as there is something that rings true.
But if I’m reading a contemporary novel, romance or not, then it needs to be based in fact. Yes, the characters and situations are completely fictional. But I need there to be recognizable rules. Things have to make sense. And this is where research comes in handy. You can’t move the location of a city or town just because it suits your needs. If you need a town to be in that particular spot, make one up. I’m fine if you move a street or a landmark, but don’t just change the real world to suit your fancy. Not in a contemporary. Science, nature, biology–they all work in a certain, established way. You can’t just change it to make your story line work. If you do, then it becomes unbelievable, in the bad way, and will make me put the book down.
In this era, with the glorious thing called the internet, anything you need to know can be discovered. Whether by searching for the information on your preferred search engine or by actually discussing things with a person that lives there or is an expert in a certain field, you can find anything you need to know. I’ve scrapped several story lines because what I wanted to happen couldn’t actually happen…not unless I was willing to completely change the order of the universe.
This may sound a bit ranty, but the truth is, I’ve read several books lately where things I know to be fact were disregarded or changed completely just to suit the authors needs. And I could think of at least three different solutions where the author could have used a real life solution that would make perfect sense and be more accurate. When things like this catch my attention, it pulls me out of the story.
I’m certainly not perfect and I’m sure that I’ve made mistakes in my own writing. But I try very hard not to write anything that is false; at least where reality is concerned. If it’s a known fact, I’m not going to change it. There can be a bit of bending, a little bit of stretching…but go too far and you’ll lose me as a reader.
Do the research. It’s not always fun, and sometimes it’s incredibly tedious, but it’ll be worth it in the end. When you have all the pieces together, it makes for a better story. It’s something that I strive for each and every time I put words on the page. I’m certain I don’t always succeed. I’m sure that there are times when I get it wrong. But I do my research, I talk to people and ask questions, and I try very hard to make that place where reality and fiction meet as seamless as possible.