When you’re writing a story set in an imaginary world, with imaginary characters doing imaginary things – does it matter if they do things the “right” way? If you can imagine your characters travelling to a far off planet in a futuristic starship, does the science need to be accurate or can you wing it and claim creative license? If you want your characters to live in a world with no technology, does it matter how long a journey would take on horse back or how they survive without the luxury of a washing machine and google?
Perhaps not, especially if you intend to have your characters do everything wrong, back-to-front or upside down on purpose. Going against custom, tradition and established facts can make for some interesting and funny reads. Just imagine how much poorer The BFG would have been without the bubbles floating downwards in Frobscottle and the subsequent whizzpopping effect!
Sometimes suspension of disbelief can be achieved by deliberately turning what your reader knows on its head and drawing them into a world entirely of your own creation where everything that doesn’t make sense, makes sense! My kids have loved, and still love, books that turn everything on its head and I love watching them laugh at the hysterical images these stories create in their heads.
There are writers however that choose to do things differently, and for them the authenticity of their world and the accuracy of their characters actions matter. These writers may still choose to set their stories in a world without technology or on a starship heading to a faraway planet, but they also choose to research the heck out of elements that will provide their world with a layer of “real” amongst all the make-believe.
When it comes to getting my facts straight though, I fall into the latter category of writer and I can’t seem to help it! I also can’t seem to do so quickly. My research frequently sends me down a rabbit-hole and I’m sure half of what I now know about the viking society won’t even make it into my books. Nevertheless, the facts are fascinating and I hope my writing will do them justice, first and foremost because, deep down, I dream of writing a story that will not only enchant my readers, but also teach them a little about a fascinating period in history that all too often focuses exclusively on the bloody and murderous nature of the viking warriors.
And so, whether you hunt for facts like me, or throw caution to the wind and make it all up, be true to your vision of the story you are writing, have it make sense in whatever form you choose to give it and allow your readers to enter your story, forget the real world for a time and enjoy it all!