If you’re writing a story in which characters are trying to uncover the truth, how many of the resources available to them are reliable? Armchair Travelers on AmericanScholar.com, today’s post from One Article Per Day, offers a very interesting look at the difficulties inherent in trying to use texts that lack the sort of editorial control we now take for granted. While this is of obvious applicability to fantasy stories, I think it is of broader use. There are a hundred different reasons why available information is unreliable or unusable.
If your characters can’t just hop on the interwebs or go to the library and find reliable, easily-usable information, how does that affect things? The most obvious answer is that the chase you’re writing may be more labyrinthine than you’ve suspected. But characters who live in societies with this problem make different assumptions about information than we do: this is one of those facts of setting that goes straight to the heart of characters.
As both a writer and a reader, I like those sorts of details the best.