Jun 06

Session on Facts and Truth in Writing

Session on Facts and Truth in Writing


Ask members to read Facts and Truth in Stories on blog prior to the session and to come along armed with one or more facts that are generally believed but not actually true (QI’s General Ignorance!) eg. Drinking alcohol while taking antibiotics will stop them working. False alcohol has no effect on them at all.

Task 1: Give out sheets. Members to write their answers, no conferring! (You may prefer to choose your own list of questions)

True or false?


  1. The first scheduled passenger jet flight was London to Johannesburg on 02 May 1952
  2. John Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier at Newport, Rhode island on 15 August 1950
  3. The first moon landing was on 21 July 1968
  4. Women were given the right to vote in Switzerland, after a referendum, in 1971
  5. Dictator Augusto Pinochet overthrew the elected President, Salvador Allende, in Chile in a coup in Spring of 1972
  6. Sydney Opera House has three theatres
  7. An anti/poll tax demo in London ended in rioting and looting in March 1990
  8. A 5,000 year old man frozen in a glacier in the Austrian Alps was nicknamed Otzi after he was found in September 1991
  9. Hong Kong, a British colony since 1842 was returned to China in July 1997
  10. The Spanish national Anthem is sung in Galician dialect
  11. It is impossible to milk a yak
  12. Mickey Mouse-s official birthday is 18 November 1934
  13. No part of Britain is officially American soil
  14. It is always noon at the South Pole
  15. The Bayeux Tapestry is not a tapestry


Share correct answers and discuss. Would it matter if some of these facts were incorrect in a novel? Give examples and discuss why and how much it might.

Task 2.

Write us a short story/opening /excerpt from a story in which you include one or more incorrect pieces of information.


A character is setting the timeframe of his early life. He has already said that he was born on Valentine’s Day in 1963. At a slightly later point in the narrative he says:

‘My earliest memory is watching the first moon landing on black and white TV in 1968. I was five years old and had just started school that Easter. My dad had bought us our first television specially to watch it. He let me stay up to see it ‘live’.’

Why would this be important? Is it a clue to an unreliable narrator? Is it deliberate?  Is the character lying about his age for some reason? Does the author want us to pick it up? Is the writer just sloppy with his facts?


Share and discuss the pieces and see

  1. a) if the deliberate mistakes are spotted and
  2. b) if they are significant and
  3. c) where this might be a useful technique to give ‘clues’.

Might it work well in any particular genre?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.