Readers demand authenticity from their writers/storytellers, regardless of medium. For example, back in the 1990s, there was a 14-year-old who re-recorded a famous country music ballad. Her version was not well received, because no one could believe that a 14-year-old was capable of understanding, much less communicating through performance, the emotional depth required of the lyrics. It was not authentic to the audience.
Conversely, Tom Clancy is regarded as a very authentic writer because of his attention to detail and thorough research. Those traits made his stories believable, which is the lynchpin of authenticity.
Webster defines authentic as being “not false or imitation: actual, real,” or “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.”
So what does that mean for us writers? Here are some points to ponder:
- Write what you know. If you don’t have a solid understanding of a geographic region, it’s hard to create characters/situations from that area.
- Do your homework. Research your era, area, culture and whatever else is a part of the story. Good research keeps the reader in the story.
- Let your characters drive the story. If the character makes an abrupt left, let them. If you’re caught by surprise, so it will be for your readers. Readers like surprises.
- Be true to yourself and your vision. You’ll be a better writer for it.
Some quick hits for authenticity:
- The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (impeccable naval research)
- The Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille (impeccable airport disaster protocols/procedures)
- One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (the middle class Jersey culture is picture perfect)
We want to be authentic because it makes our stories believable. Believable stories are well received by readers and other media consumers. In short, it makes our audience happy, which is the whole point. Right?