One could say that all of fiction involves a suspension of reality.
But does it?
I just finished a “light summer novel,” and I am not sure why I read it. Or rather, completed it. The main character was likeable but her motivation came out of left field. In addition, the plot line was painfully contrived. Usually, I delete these types of books by the 3% mark on my kindle.
So why did I continue?
I suspect the masterful writing style and editing drew me into her story. It allowed me to rationalize through the absolutely absurd situations the main character fell into. Looking back, the story certainly wasn’t believable, but at the time, I found it entertaining. Did it matter that it wasn’t believable?
Consider this: A genetic scientist flew to Alaska on a hunch that she might meet up with someone in danger? Spent her life savings of $11,000 on a guided hunt in a remote area and she hadn’t even shot a gun before this? Doesn’t know how to fly a plane and successfully lands a seaplane on a remote lake? Gets kidnapped by a dishonest FBI agent, survives, and is able to save everyone?
This author definitely used a suspension of reality to move her story forward.
How do fiction writers build a reality?
I think we all agree that each type of fiction (fantasy, traditional, science fiction, realistic fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, and so on) demands a greater or lesser suspension of reality. This is where the imagination of the author comes into play: she has to imagine the world her characters are going to occupy. Obviously a fantasy will read differently than historical fiction.
How do you create the proper reality for your story?
Think about setting: will you develop an alternative universe or will this be set in Little Rock?
Think about character: are your characters acting with appropriate motivation? Would they REALLY do that? Or, do their actions fit with the plot and setting?
Think about plot: what are the steps you will use to move your story forward?
In fiction writing, you have the freedom to create any type of world and characters that you want. Your plot should move forward realistically in this world that you create. The way you build your characters will also illustrate to you how those characters will act in different situations.
How many accomplished fiction writers say that at some point, their characters take over the story?
This happens because the author has spent time fleshing out both the characters and the setting. She starts the story knowing where she wants it to go, but if she has truly developed complex characters, those characters take on a life of their own. All she has to do is type the story they tell.
Silly summer reading. . .
I did enjoy this novel when I was reading it. Granted, when I look back, I am amazed that I completed the book. When I look at the plot line, the events, the motivation in the hard light of day, I scratch my head at the absurdity of it all. However, while in the process of reading the book, the author drew me into the story and had me empathizing with her characters. I call that a masterful suspension of reality. The author had me believing.
So, when writing your next fiction work, create a plot and setting, then characters that fit into that scenario. Make sure it all works together so that your reader walks away satisfied, even if you departed reality that we all live in.