Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Suspending Reality

{This is a post related to writing. Don't be shocked.}

My friend Sharron and I were discussing one of her upcoming books. She told me she needed to work on the ending because it wasn't quite right. I asked what she needed to tweak, knowing it wasn't the fact her heroine had certain physical abilities beyond those of normal humans. No, she said, it was a problem with speed and water. She was concerned someone would scoff.

I completely understood. While her heroine's bizarre biological makeup could be readily accepted (Sharone does a great job of relating the scientific whys and wherefores without killing you with it), a glitch in physics may throw you out of a story. Well, me and Sharron anyway. There are Laws of Physics. With biology, they're more like basic guidelines.

What it boils down to is the suspension of belief. It's what we rely on to keep a reader in the story. One or two goofs, even if they're fairly minor, might make a reader toss the book across the room. And we don't want that. Sometimes it's easier to believe a far-fetched plot than to have a plot point that's too close to reality come off as wrong.

One case we discussed was the comparison of the TV shows "October Road" and "Drive". In "October Road" (rant in an earlier post), this guy goes off and leaves his hometown without calling or writing to his girlfriend for TEN YEARS! My first thought: What a crock. Add to that, the girlfriend has a son about 9 years old and claims he's not the guy's kid. Hmmm....so right after he left for this supposedly short trip, you screwed around? Niiiiice. These are not the kind of people I want to know about. Where's the remote?

"Drive," on the other hand, is about an illegal cross-country road race where the participants are gathered via some nefarious means. The main character, played by the yummy Nathan Fillion : ), is searching for his missing wife who was kidnapped by the race coordinators to get him to race. Plus they go through all kinds of mind games with him and the other participants. The concept is ludicrous. Yet, I'm willing to set that aside because it's the world the creators have set up. And because of my lust for Nathan Fillion, but that's neither here nor there. (NOTE: It looks like "Drive" may have been cancelled, with its final episodes airing in July. Dang!)

As paranormal writers, we can pretty much be guaranteed that readers will go along for the ride if we say our characters have shape-shifting ability, see ghosts, drink blood to survive, or what have you. A reader picking up such a story has already "agreed" to accept your world. As long as you have good characters to care about and can give a decent explanation (without the dreaded info dumping) for why this phenomenon occurs, you're probably good to go. But defy physics without explaining how, or say a soldier in the US Army uses a type of weapon a G.I. would never be issued, or tell me some teenager will leave home and never even send a postcard to his girlfriend, and your believability goes out the window. And possibly your chance at having someone pick up another one of your books, unless it is to mock it.

Not that I'd ever do that }: )



At 6:05 PM, Blogger Meankitty Says... said...

Consistency is the cool hobgoblin of paranormal stories.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

It is that : )

"Cool hobgoblin" may be my newest favorite phrase.


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