Thursday, April 30, 2009

Writer Credibility

I went to a spirituality conference many years ago, where the guest speaker told a story to illustrate his point. It went something like this:

An artist painted a picture of Jesus Christ knocking at a door. When the painting was unveiled to the public for the first time, the audience broke into jeers and the critics ridiculed it because the artist had forgotten to paint a handle on the door. In his own defense, the artist explained that the door represented the human heart and could only be opened from the inside.

Charming story, no? I cocked an eyebrow listening along with the rest of the audience, knowing fully well who the artist in question was – William Holman Hunt - the painting, his " Light of the World". The allegory as explained by the speaker was relatively close, but he erred in saying the painting was ridiculed. In fact, it was a raging success from its first showing and was highly successful in print immediately after, as well as into the modern day. It inspired other works including poems and plays, and is to this day widely copied. (Read more about it here.)

If the speaker had relayed the story in all its accurate glory, it would not have diminished his point one little bit. However, with the skewing of the story, his credibility could (and should) be called into question.

Therein lies the importance of checking your facts and making sure they are accurate. Today, with computers and the Internet, it's so easy to run a quick check even for your blog postings. Do a quick search at to make sure you're not dealing with some urban legend. Then search at Wikipedia and read any articles related. Either one will most likely warn that you're either about to make a fool of yourself, or that your information is right on target. If you're a writer of worth, and want to build respect and gain a following, a few seconds to verify your facts will make a huge difference in your public ratings.

What about you? What sources do you use to check out stories and other facts you use in your writing? Or do you? Leave us a comment.
Dani Greer runs the Blog Book Tours yahoogroup which teaches authors how to promote their books with a virtual tour. Next class starts May 1. She is a founding member of The Blood Red Pencil. This time of year, she can usually be found in her two-acre garden trying to whip the grow-y stuff into some form of visual interest if not beauty. She does occasionally find time to edit a manuscript or two for her favorite authors.

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  1. Agreed. It is far too easy to check things out nowadays for misinformation to slip unvalidated into your writing. I use snopes and wikipedia a lot. And even just do a google search - pages upon pages will come up of useful information on any and everything.

  2. I'm a novelist. I make things up! Kidding. I do fact check. is a good source and online Britannica. I make phone calls to experts and schlep down to the library if I have to.

  3. Yeah, Queen of Google here, too. is useful as well. I think I'm going to do a post about various search engines and what they're good for... somewhere down the road.


  4. I usually start with Google, since it brings up so many pages and pages of places to check. Those of us who remember life before the Internet know how much easier it is to do basic research. But we also remember the value of checking with the reference desk at the library.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.