KEEPING IT REAL (AHEM)
Since I write icky bug, the question always comes up about why would my character do this or that when there is a monster lurking nearby. Why open the door when you know the monster is on the other side? Why go to work at the factory when you know a monster has taken it over? Would any normal person do that in real life? Would you?
Okay, folks. Let’s look at real life. First off, is icky bug real life? Of course not! Duh! Is fantasy real life? Of course not! Are vampires real? Are werewolves real? Here’s a good one for you. Is fiction real? If it was, it wouldn’t be called fiction!
The idea of keeping it real is to make your fictional story seem believable. Then again, as with any fictional story, the reader has to suspend their disbelief to a certain extent for the sake of the story. When it comes to the more reality-based genres, such as mystery, romance, some thrillers, westerns and such, that suspension of disbelief isn’t such a stretch. However, with genres such as high-concept thrillers, horror (especially icky bug), steampunk, science fiction and fantasy, that word reality has to be stretched a bit more.
Your story shouldn’t stretch credibility to the breaking point, of course, unless it’s comedy or satire (for instance), but come on now, whatever happens isn’t exactly going to keep Carl Sagan or Einstein from turning in their graves.
The other evening, I was reading a chapter from my latest icky bug, The Factory. Once again, someone questioned why my characters would do such and such, instead of running for the hills because of all the things happening at said factory. Well, my answer is that if that were to happen, first off, there wouldn’t be a story. Second, they are not suspending their disbelief. They don’t understand the genre. They have obviously never watched any icky bug movies on SyFy channel or seen them anywhere else. My story doesn’t stretch disbelief any more than those b-movie classics. I know my genre. On the other hand, this person did catch an incident with a phone that was unrealistic, as I had written it. That was a good call and I changed that particular incident. However, I did not, and will not change the entire story.
These are things you, as a writer, need to watch out for. Keep it real to your genre. You don’t have to necessarily keep it real to the laws of physics 101 or psychology 101, but if you don’t, you must be able to suspend the reader’s disbelief without pushing them over the edge. Keep in mind that when you read in front of a diverse group like a writer’s group, not everyone reads or understands that genre and will see it with different eyes. You have to take that into account. In my case, my plot is still sound for the genre regardless of her feelings, but that listener caught an incident that would have been a gotcha. I’m glad she caught it.
To keep things real for your genre, I can’t recommend highly enough outside eyes and ears. That outside perspective can catch stuff an insider might miss.