Although
the art of fiction lies within the author’s ability to create a world for the
reader to visit and leave her troubles behind, this does not give the author
license to forego authenticity within the details of the manuscript. When
self-editing, an author should confirm that research has been done in several
areas so that the reader does not come away with a sense that the author lives
in a world of his own making, or worse, that the author has a childlike understanding
of the world around him. Such areas to research are:
Realistic business dealings: There are
laws governing business transactions. There are permitting issues with many
occupations and new businesses. Unless an author is writing a historical novel,
the days of sealing a deal with a handshake and opening a business are long
gone. Today, business owners face a line of red tape a mile long. Though the
details may be too boring to share with the reader, the author must give some
indication that characters involved in such ventures have jumped through the
required hoops. If this isn’t done, the story loses realism.
Professions: Doctors, lawyers, policemen,
firemen, office workers, you name it, every profession works within certain
parameters. They also each have their own lingo. For example, if you were a
Kennedy Space Center worker in the heyday of space exploration, you would have
been met with a litany of acronyms. And yes, they did have a book that detailed
the meanings. If an author planned to write a novel concerning that era, for
authenticity, he would need to absorb the lingo. He would need to study launch
protocol, and he might need to spend some time with rocket scientists and space
engineers, who are different breeds altogether. Researching such details when
it comes to professions makes the story ring true.
Characters’ Speech: As hinted above,
different professions have jargon that is utilized in the course of the day. Likewise,
in our everyday lives, individuals from different classes and regions have
their own speech. In answering a question recently, I learned that someone from
Minnesota might say, “I’m going with.” For me that is an incomplete statement
that I might hear from a teenager. Someone from the deep South may not say
their r’s and their g’s. An immigrant, unless he’s been in our country for a long
while, is not going to use contractions when speaking. Also, depending upon their
home country, they will use different tenses and sometimes incorrectly use
words. These patterns of speech need to be authentic to the reader.
Characters’
Reactions
: If an author has shown a character to be closed minded, dishonest,
and unfriendly, the reader is going to stumble when that same character shows
understanding, becomes trustworthy, or suddenly wants to befriend everyone.
However, if the author does a good job of showing the motivation behind the
character’s change in behavior—in other words providing a character arc—the
reaction will ring true. Without proper motivation, the change in behavior will
confuse the reader and make it difficult for her to believe the story line.
When
self-editing be sure to research areas of law, professional lingo and
convention, the patterns of speech based upon a character’s background, and the
characters’ motivations for their various reactions.

Happy
editing.

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