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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Harare or Salisbury Steak?

No mentally balanced person enjoys being wrong. If and when proclaimed misinformation is outed, embarrassment results . . . an emotion accompanied by uneasiness or even shame. Mark Twain noted what the consequence of an author’s mistake might be for a reader when he wrote, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” I wonder if Twain was on the mind of the Scientific American author who wrote five years ago on the dangers of self- treatment based on faulty internet medical information.

While fiction writers would not generally be categorized as endangering their readers, the authenticity of actual facts used fictitiously give credibility to the writing and save an author from the dreaded embarrassment. Example. In my novel, Bazo, I had the protagonist flying out of Harare, Rhodesia in 1960. Well, in that year the city was still called by its colonial name, Salisbury, which was not changed to Harare until 1982. (Red-faced, I made the needed correction.) Nobody would die from that mistake, but anyone familiar with the history of Rhodesia-now-Zimbabwe would shake their heads at my historical inaccuracy.

Research . . . a key component of an author’s endeavor. One can make things up, but facticity lends authenticity to a written work. Stating the rate of fire of an M60 machine gun as 300 rounds per minute when it is actually 600 rpm diminishes both the story’s and the writer’s reliability. Part of the demanding task of writing is investigation and scrutiny, diligently striving for veracity. Readers will be appreciative, and you as a wordsmith will be respected.

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