Joining us on Thursdays is Teresa Burrell: author, attorney, and child advocate. We all know her from a previous publisher, crime fiction conferences, or geographical proximity. She's smart, funny, charming, and one of the hardest working authors we know. And her passion is evident in the mysteries she writes. Here's Teresa in her own words:
I recently read two different books by very good writers and the legal scenarios were incorrect. One was a courtroom scene that wasn't at all like real life. The other, even more painful, was where the legal premise was incorrect. That's just unfair to the reader because the recipient of this information will often walk away thinking what he or she read is "the law." Sure, we're writing fiction, but I believe we have a responsibility to make our facts, our scenes, our characters both realistic and accurate.
This is not to say you have to know everything there is to know about what you write. You do not need to be a lawyer to write legal fiction, a doctor to write medical fiction, or in law enforcement to write a police procedural. But if something is crucial to your story, you do need to have an expert consultant.
I believe this to be true of every part of your novel. For example, my latest manuscript has a scene in a strip bar with a lap dance. It's not meant to be graphic, so I don't need a lot of detail, but I feel like I need to set the scene correctly. Now, I've never had a lap dance but I did go to a male strip bar once for a bachelorette party so I have some knowledge beyond what I've seen on television. I started calling my male friends, the ones I knew had received lap dances, and I've gained a whole lot of insight--much more than I cared to know. Research can be a lot of fun.
As a reader, what happens to you when you come across something in a novel that you know to be incorrect? Does it ruin the story for you? Do you ignore it and go on? Do you think the author has a responsibility to be accurate? Does it keep you from reading books by that author again?
As a writer, you often hear, "Write what you know." This is the reason I write legal suspense and not romance novels. . .