Being Accurate vs. Being Anal

It’s a novel, right?? Novels are fiction, so is being accurate in fiction about details regarding places all that important?? Like if your book has someone in England pay to gas up their car before filling their tank instead of after, does it really matter?? Or does it make any difference if the book has traffic markings that are not really on the road in a certain town?? After all, it’s fiction, isn’t it?? I suppose that call is up to the individual author.? For me, I like to keep it as accurate as possible, while not going overboard.? I created fictional places, like Haniford Hall, Knowe Castle and The Reiver’s Bastle pub in Christmas Cracker because the people who owned them were fictional, but I did try to make them consistent with similar structures in the same region.? However, other named places do exist and I tried to be as accurate as possible about them.? For instance, the Esso filling station (no, in England it is not a gas station) on the M6 near Carlisle in chapter 30 is real.

Esso Filling Station on the M6

If you’ve read the book, you will see that I have tried to describe the physical structure correctly as well as how it operates.? I even changed the scene where payment for the petrol (gasoline) purchase was made before filling up to having payment made after the fact, just as it actually is done in England.? Well, I can’t say for sure payment is currently done that way everywhere in England, but I can say that particular station did? it that way at the time of Christmas Cracker because I filled up my car there.? I consider that kind of accuracy important.

Then there is the post office in Gisland described in chapter 9.? Gisland is, by any definition, a small, out-of-the-way town.? It’s location is perfect for the setting of the scene where Morg and Heather meet Mike, the British cop.

Gisland Post Office

I wanted it so that Heather does something illegal.? Not a major breaking of the law, but a minor infraction.? The problem was that the one that I liked involved double yellow lines along the road in front of the post office that do not exist.? So I put them there anyway.? Double yellow lines are used in England, just not in Gisland.? While maybe not perfectly accurate, changing the entire scene because of missing double lines seemed to be rather anal.

In one case, I would have to ignore the English method of paying at a filling station if I left my story in its original form while in the other instance I merely added traffic lines that were in common use in England on a road where there were none.? Accurate versus anal.? I have seen authors go far to either side on this issue, but I will stay in the center of the road.


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