Friday, January 9, 2015

Writing Fiction is Tricky...

I had a young girl ask me the other day, what the "hardest thing about writing fiction is." I looked her square in the eye and said "for you to believe it."

Fiction writers make great liars. I mean, we make stuff up, and convince people it can happen. It's called Suspension of Disbelief.

Let's say you go to a movie. It's about a boy who believes he can fly. He struggles. You watch him struggle. You meet his friends. The boy is likeable, and you find yourself starting to care. You want him to fly. So, about three-fourths through the movie, when he DOES fly, you aren't going to stand up with your hands on your hips in protest, screaming "this movie sucks! No one can REALLY fly!" Nope. You will be fine with the defiance of Natural Laws. You will Suspend Your Disbelief, because you are enjoying the story, and watching it unfold.

This is the Golden Egg of Fiction writing. The target. The point. The Whole Reason We Do It. I want you to submerge yourself in my fictional world. I want you to fall in love with my characters. (And hate some of them, too.) I want you to become emotionally invested, so that when something magical or unrealistic happens, you simply accept it as part of the story, and move on. Take the Harry Potter series, for example. We fell in love with Harry and his world. So when Harry actually got on a broomstick and flew around, we believed it. We believed it could happen, because we were lost in the story. And we loved every minute of it.

The tricky part is, toeing the line between what is real, and what isn't. This is why Historical fiction can be a challenge. We didn't live 500 years ago, but if I do my research right, I can make it seem like the reader is really in...say, Tudor-era England, living and breathing. It's very real, to the reader. But if I don't do my research right, well, it can be disastrous. (i.e. having Henry VIII pick a cell phone out of his pocket and texting Anne Boleyn for a booty call would be...jarring.)

 Readers are smart. They know when something is "off." They jump up and down and scream when we go against our own canon in a series. We have to temper the fantasy with realism. (Or is it realism, with fantasy?) We have to craft a world with one foot in reality, for it to work.

And then, if we're lucky, they believe.

Tricky, very tricky.

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