Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Truth Doesn't Suspend Disbelief, A Writer's Tip

On Tuesday, May 5th, I'm teaching another of my one night classes on Navigating the New Publishing World which will be held through Boise Community Education at Since the last class went over for 45 minutes! I'm writing a few blog posts about questions that come up often in my classes and workshops that are not really on topic but that many new authors struggle with.

New author when told that her fiction is unbelievable: "But it's a true story that I wrote as fiction! It really happened! That person really did that! That coincidence was real!" Etc.

Here's the hard, awful truth when writing fiction: Truth doesn't suspend disbelief, ever. Unbelievable things happen all the time. Huge coincidences occur constantly. If you are writing nonfiction, no problem. With fiction it doesn't matter if  it's true, it only matters if it's believable.  If a reader doesn't suspend disbelief, even for the tiniest true detail, it's all over for the piece of fiction. Bumping a reader out of a story, even for an instant, is the kiss of death.

Now, I hear you all saying that we authors take inspiration from real life all the time. There's the rub. Inspiration only, not the true event/coincidence/whatever that is unbelievable.

Readers, do you have any examples of when you stopped reading because it was "Oh come on" moment?