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For instance, the scanned archives of the UK Meteorological Office tell me gale force winds blew across England on April 8th and 9th in 1928. It so happens that my story requires a sunny period just then (It’s all tied up with the date of Easter and therefore the Easter school holidays, so I can’t change the dates). What’s more, there were thunderstorms on the 10th.
And talk about floods of detail: “much rain occurred widely” on the 2nd through 5th, especially in the Southeast, where London is, the setting for the book. Oh well, gales or no gales, the temperature was above normal from the 6th to the 9th.
In the old days, I could make the weather whatever I wanted and never think twice about it. Now, I shall make it what I need—and feel guilty. And wonder whether I ought to appease the Weather God and possible research-minded readers with a disclaimer at the end...
At the other extreme, in 1979 I wrote my first book with just a couple of books for reference, Prince of Pleasure and the Shell Guide to England. Not only was there no web overstuffed with data, but there was no Amazon to help find the books, often out of print, that might be relevant. You were limited to what your library possessed or you happened to come across in a book store.
Apart from the problem of whether to fudge the weather reports, an excess of information has one major hazard: the info dump.
Science fiction is particularly prone to drowning the reader in a mass of data that holds up the narrative while the entire genesis of an imaginary world is explained. But such dumps can be found in all kinds of fiction.
Perhaps half the art of writing is the art of knowing what to leave out.
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies. The paperback edition of Superfluous Women is now available to pre-order.|