Anyway, at one point a writer who just saw a major character development turn to dust said plaintively, "But this is fiction, right? So I can do what I want."
Ah, the eternal allure of fiction. You can make it up!
So, anyway, yeah. Good thought. Now what? What would you say is a good guideline for what-- in your opinion-- should be accurate, and what can be modified to fit your story's needs? What can you make up?
How about some examples. What fictional license would you allow yourself in your own story, or (more importantly, perhaps) allow in a story you are reading?
For example, I remember reading a book set in my own town, and it had Ohio Street running north-south. In fact, Ohio Street runs east-west, and the author grew up here, and it's an important street he'd probably know, so I figured there was some reason for this. Or is it silly to worry about that?
I needed a mall somewhere in a book, and I placed it in an actual town where there is no mall. (This is a peril of living in a big city-- I can't even imagine a world where there is no mall within driving distance.
What about some professional procedure, like (I'm severely hampered by my lack of experience in Real Life :) a nurse bringing her daughter's preschool class into the nursery to see the babies? Or a clerk at the BMV typing out a new title right there in front of the customer instead of sending the information to the printing section to have it done on antelope-skin parchment or whatever the heck they do in the two weeks between applying for a title and getting it?
What about calling it "BMV" in a state where it's "DMV?"
What about things that contradict what we might think of as modern life, like a teacher being fired because she was seen in a bar by the principal? (In the 21st century, I mean. And public school.) What if we made it a private school? I'm not looking for advice here, but just some sense of whether it would worry you if you felt the author wasn't following due process and the law.
What about -- as happens all the time in cop shows-- the police officer slams a suspect into the wall of the interrogation room and demands a confession, and the bloodied suspect confesses, and it's not a problem?
Those all sound sort of easy, actually. We should find out if it's BMV or DMV, and what way Ohio St. runs. What's harder to decide?
What about things that could happen but probably wouldn't, like a minister at a church letting his non-ordained friend do the sermon on a Sunday when the minister has tickets to the early football game. (hey, that would be a serious dilemma.... 11 am service, 12 noon game... 45 yard-line seats....)
What about putting a fictional restaurant on a real corner? Like 42nd Street and 8th Ave? What if there's a famous actual restaurant right there?
What about putting a non-actual big event at a real place? Like a fictional mass murder at an actual college? What if it's in backstory, like she arrives for her freshman year at Harvard a few months after the murder?
What sort of debate would you go through? For example, when would you decide this isn't important, and when would you decide it is important? When would you change the name to something other than Harvard? Would you make up a "Gotham City" rather than use Manhattan?
When do you decide not to do the research needed to make sure that this is authentic? When do you go ahead and do what you want even after the research says the opposite of what you hope?
Just some insight here? Is this a dilemma you've faced?