Fact Checking

Even though I write fantasy, I try to be accurate with facts when it is appropriate.  There are many things that we use in fantasy that are based on historical periods in the real world, and these can and should be accurate.  I’ve written about this before relating to falconry, but it applies to weapons, clothing, and travel as well.  For example, if you’re including a trebuchet in your story, you need to remember that it was a huge piece of equipment that was around 60 feet tall.  It wasn’t something that was mobile, or that could be worked by a handful of people.

There’s a reason to be sure that you have things correct: there are other people out there who know the information.  If you totally mess something up in a novel or story, some people will forgive you.  Some will be irritated enough to put the book down.  There is also a slight risk that someone will tell you that you have it wrong, either politely or publicly.

When I was a teen I went to a Shakespeare festival in Canada.  The group I was with toured the prop and costume warehouse, and one of the items we saw really brought this home.  For a play about Saint George and the dragon, they needed a mauled body.  The prop people took the time to make sure that it was anatomically correct, just in case there was a doctor in the front row.  I’ve remembered that ever since.

(I was also reminded of the importance of fact checking this week, when a museum we visited had two taxidermy raptors mislabeled.  I was polite, but I did let them know that their birds were identified incorrectly.  There’s no way that I’ll be the last birder to visit.)

If you don’t know the details about something you’re writing, take the time to find it out.  Your readers who do know the info will appreciate it.



Grover Got Elected Twice

When I was a teen, my mentor would occasionally sing a funny song with all the US presidents in order by first name.  I didn’t learn the song, but one particular line stuck with me.

“For some unknown reason, Grover got elected twice.”

This is a reference to Grover Cleveland, who was elected our 22nd president, lost to Benjamin Harrison (23) and was then re-elected to be our 24th president.  He is the only president to date to serve two non-consecutive terms.

It’s amazing how facts put to music stick in our brains more effectively than facts that aren’t sing-able.  I have now learned the presidents in order thanks to a rap from a great CD that was put together for this exact reason.  (I’ve also learned the state capitals and the first 50 digits of pi from the same set of songs!)  As a kid I learned a song with the states in alphabetical order, and I still use the Animaniacs’ song Nations of the World to get through quizzes on my favorite quiz website.

Fortunately, people have taken advantage of this quirk of our brains and put together many songs to teach kids (and adults) the things that they need or want to know.

Any good songs you’ve used to learn information?

Fascinated with Facts

I am easily impressed by random facts.  When I read an interesting tidbit, my first instinct is to share it.  The same goes for a funny line or cleverly worded sentence in a book.

Today’s interesting and fun fact is from the February National Geographic, which I started reading today because of the dog on the cover.  The article about dog breeds and genetics included this interesting morsel: “If humans varied as much in height [as dog breeds], the smallest would be two feet tall and the tallest would measure some 31 feet.”

My first reaction was “Wow, that’s cool!  Who can I tell?”  I’m not sure why I get so excited about random trivia, or why I have an overwhelming urge to share it, but that’s just part of who I am.  It does probably explain why I enjoy reading non-fiction almost as much as fiction.  I may not know why I have this interest, but I do know where it came from.  My dad is just as fond of factoids as I am. 🙂