Is Research Worthwhile?

This week I spent a couple of hours researching the availability of cross-Channel ferries during the first weeks of the Second World War. Why? Because a character needs to get to France from England in September 1939. I found my answer after extensive googling and three emails to people who might possibly know. (Thanks to Alan Taylor of Folkestone Local History Society for coming up with the info).

The evening I received the information I went to see the film Darkest Hour. I enjoyed it immensely and Gary Oldman as Churchill was outstanding. However, there were one or two points I thought might not have been historically accurate so I checked when I got home, and I was right. A friend later told me he’d read there were over 50 inaccuracies. A quick check on IMDB shows a lot of these are of the ‘that car wasn’t produced until …’ variety but some are a little more important.

It’s not that I’m picky or a nerd about films, it just made me wonder if the facts actually matter if the story is good enough. Do we suspend disbelief even when we know the characters and events are real?

For now, I’ll keep researching and let the director worry about this if the film rights are ever taken up!

Posted in Random thoughts, Writing Tips and tagged , , , .


  1. I think it says something that we (authors of historical fiction) are likely held to a higher standard than screenwriters. Or maybe it’s the audience. I’ve always been taught that an author is toast if the reader finds an obvious boo boo in the book. Bad reviews aside, no author wants his “work” to be tossed into the circular file (dust bin for our British friends). At some point though, the research has to be enough and the story written.

  2. I think you’re right Mike. I’ve spoken to a couple of people who’ve seen the film and they thought it was all factually accurate, so perhaps it doesn’t matter for the majority of the audience.

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