Do you ever judge an author by what was written by them? Attribute beliefs or personality traits? In non-fiction, we do all the time. For example, Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, the subject of an earlier blog, has to be wonderful to be around. She couldn’t be a black hole of negativity gobbling up your positive soul. She is an expert on positive thinking, so she would be easy to be with, right?
One thing I did love about writing informational text for so many years was that I could do another edition and correct stupid ideas, add in new understandings, or fix grammar errors that made it past me, my co-authors, and all the publisher’s editors who had their fingers on it.
Not so in fiction. What is writ is it! Jean Auel couldn’t re-write Clan of the Cave Bear after archaeologists found new information on Neanderthals. When secret government documents are declassified, you won’t find espionage thriller authors calling their books back in for a do-over.
So, making a judgment about an author’s knowledge base and expertise is par for the course in informational writing. We read a book because that author’s life experiences and training lead us to believe the veracity of the work.
That is not the case in novels. We get a pass because we are “imaginative”, “creative”, “artistes.” No one expects me to have been a prostitute in order to have written Streetwalker. No one thinks I am a slut because I wrote about a couple of them. (Hmm! Well, maybe they do. How do I know for sure?)
For the most part, novel readers are forgiving about errors of fact (or perceived errors) they find in fiction. Oh, sure, I’ve heard authors say to do your research because someone will be sure to note that that wine couldn’t come from that region of France. The point is, however, that fiction readers mainly read for the characters and how they interact with the plot and one another. If they really wanted to know about French wines, they’d buy French Wine for Dummies—by an expert!