Saturday, July 13, 2013

I don’t believe you

I was asked last weekend to explain the different needs for accuracy in fiction novels when dealing with those gray areas between fact and fiction.

The most important thing is that your reader must believe the story. You can have blue people, three purple moons and red and white striped flowers in your world, as long as they’re consistent and logical. Those people/flowers/moons must stay the same, or be logically different (the moons can set) throughout the book.

I have mentioned before in a previous blog about an author who won a major literary award for her semi-autobiographical story about how she escaped from a country by walking across the border. The problem was that the country she said she escaped to, does not share a border with the country she left. The editors, publisher, and judges all missed that point but the readers didn’t. They stopped believing her and the award was withdrawn. If only she’d made a country name up, no one would have had a problem with her story. They’d have thought she was protecting the people who helped her, not telling a lie. It turned out later after investigation the entire book was made up. Again, this would not have been a problem if she’d used imaginary place names and said it was fiction. She then would have deserved the award she won so briefly.

Which takes us back to the key point. The reader has to believe what you’re telling them. If your villain is using an automatic rifle and doesn’t hit the escaping-on-foot heroine, the villain needs to be a very bad shot, half-blind, or distracted, or all of the above. And if that heroine is running barefoot through the woods at midnight how can she see where she’s going, why doesn’t she cut her feet on rocks and what was she doing there in the first place?

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...

Great points!

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Hey Anny, your comment showed up this time! excellent.