U is for Unbelievable

I like writing cross genre, and most of the things I write require some suspension of disbelief.  Now, I’m the perfect audience in both books and movies.  As long as the unbelievableness makes sense in the context of the universe created, I’ll buy it.  I can suspend disbelief and get totally into it.  On the other hand, I’m horrible to watch with when it doesn’t quite make sense in context.  I’ll comment, I’ll yell at the movie (or my book).  I won’t stop watching or reading (unless it’s so bad I can’t continue); I’ll just annoy everyone around me.

I had someone critique one of my works in progress (WIP).  In the WIP, the main character learns she is from a different world and is special, etc, etc.  The person who critiqued it said that he couldn’t believe she accepted it so fast and that it didn’t make sense.  So, being the good little receiver of criticism I was trying to be, I went back and edited.  I added in disbelief and vacillation for pages and pages.

And it slowed down the pace like crazy.

I recently re-read a Black Dagger Brotherhood book (if you haven’t read these, they’re phenomenal, BTW).  In these books, humans find out that vampires do exist.  They have trouble with belief at first, but it doesn’t go on for pages and pages.  If you really examine the reactions, it’s not realistic.  But it works.

Writing isn’t about realism, unless of course you’re writing a memoir or non-fiction.  People don’t read fiction to read about the ordinary person who gets up day after day, eats breakfast, takes a shower, goes to work, comes home, and watches TV.  Though the Sims made a killing off that, people want to read about drama and action.  They want to read about ordinary people who become special or end up in situations we’d all like to be in: falling in love, having families, saving the world.  Since most of us realize that that heady rush of falling in love comes rarely in a person’s life, if we want to relive it, we have to do it vicariously, through books and movies.  Who wants realism in that?

In the end, I went back to my WIP with a critical eye.  I remembered some of the things I’ve read about editing.  In the end, the WIP belongs to the writer.  We want readers to love it, but not every bit of criticism, no matter how well meant, is good criticism.  That’s why it’s important to develop that critical skin as writers, where we can take criticism, chew it over, think about it (without getting insulted!), then separate out the usable parts from the not-so-usable parts.

After all, I’m one of your readers, and I’ll believe anything, as long as it makes sense in your universe.

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2 comments on “U is for Unbelievable

  1. Cindy Dwyer says:

    Interesting comment about realism in nonfiction. I read somewhere that fiction is “harder” to write because it needs to make sense and be realistic. Nonfiction is “easier” because it doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to be true – funny!

    • doreeweller says:

      Actually, that’s a good point I hadn’t thought of. There are times when something happens to me or someone I know in real life, and I’ve made the comment, “If someone had written that as fiction, I wouldn’t have believed it!”

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