Your Reader Has To Believe

GTW_screw it upWhen you write a novel, you need to get the facts and details right. Who has ever heard of Bombay, NC or Mount Sanai, Oklahoma? They don’t exist, or if they do, I’ve never heard of them.

Sure you’re writing a fictional novel and you can do what you want. Wait a minute. You can do what you want, but if it doesn’t make sense to your reader, they’re going to shake their head and throw the book to the side. Don’t expect a recommendation.

When you write fiction, you’re already asking your reader to accept numerous situations that could occur, but odds are won’t. My novel’s hero is one of two identical twins. He was switched at birth and never knew he had a brother. They meet in Afghanistan and are blown up when one steps on an IED. One dies and the other is misidentified, taking on his brothers identity and life.

Now that’s asking a reader to accept a lot of ‘could happens’ but odds are they never would.Β  In order to balance the story and help my readers maintain their suspension of disbelief, I did my homework to make sure all of the facts surrounding these situations made sense.

What’s suspension of disbelief? It’s your reader’s ability to suspend critical faculties and accept the surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the purpose of enjoyment. However, as stated, your reader will only accept so much. Even fantasy and sci-fi need to read as real.

You have to get the facts and details right. With today’s technology and the information available, there is no reason why the details should be inaccurate. I love Google and Youtube. They are your friends.

I’m never going to Afghanistan, and I definitely want be serving in the marines. I do have a son who went to Afghanistan and was a sergeant in the marines. That helped. I also found more information than I could possibly use on Afghanistan, Camp Leatherneck, and the daily life of marines who resided at the camp through google searches, interviews with my son, and youtube videos.

Get the details right and you can get away with a lot of make believe. It doesn’t have to be real, but it does have to read real.

Something to think about.

-Jan R




Your Reader Has To Believe

8 thoughts on “Your Reader Has To Believe

  1. “Even fantasy and sci-fi need to read as real.”


    In my “day job,” I work mostly with sci-fi/fantasy authors, and a few of them seem to think that, because their stories’ entire worlds are imaginary, they don’t have to get any of the details right. ‘But this is a FANTASY story! Don’t you tell me no one can cut a person in half diagonally with a sword unless there’s something magical about either blade or wielder… Don’t you tell me no normal horse can gallop for two hours straight… Don’t you tell me “flaxen” means the color of unbleached linen instead of the color of flax blossoms…’ *sigh* And the usual excuse is that READERS won’t know the difference anyway, so the AUTHOR doesn’t have to bother. But readers do notice.

    Sometimes, though, the author gets the details correct and still ends up with readers who think those details are wrong. ‘What’s a “fuller”? That’s a blood grove, you stupid author! Everybody knows that…’ And it’s sometimes hard not to fall into the trap of over-explaining everything, in an attempt to convince the readers, ‘Yes, I really do know what I’m talking about here. Trust me, and enjoy the story.’

    (There’s one fantasy novel that comes to mind, wherein one secondary character, early in the book, is described as having lipstick that matches her hair. MANY readers take this as proof that she’s a redhead, because they can just barely imagine orange lipstick, whereas pale gold is “unrealistic.” However, this novel was written in the late 1960s, and yes, pale gold lipstick was a thing back then. *shrug* The other day, someone asked me if it would be correct for a character in the 1840s to say “Wow!” I had to look that one up, but it turns out that the exclamation dates back to the early 1500s. There are probably readers of THAT book who think the author messed up. I know there are readers of futuristic sci-fi who think “okay”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (sorry – typing badly today, and I should have stopped that comment several paragraphs ago anyway)

      *continues just enough to finish sentence*

      […] is anachronistic for the year 2393, even though the characters are speaking English, because reasons. (They never tell ME the reasons, just that it’s wrong and that no one would be using slang that has spread all over the world THEY live in and is used by people who don’t know any other words of English, so maybe it would survive a few more centuries… But what do I know?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good things to talk about! I once read someone’s work where they flipped on the light in 183something. There was no electricity in 183something. My first couple of novels centered around the town I live in; I researched the town’s history and wrote about it as it was in 1885. You are right — it makes it more believable.

    Liked by 1 person

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