12 April 2011

The Readers Know What’s Out There

Every adult knows that Neverland doesn’t exist. No fairy dust exists that allows one to fly. In fact, unless we chose to believe otherwise, we can even claim that fairies don’t exist. With all that said, we adults have this thing called the Suspension of Disbelief that allows us to read things about fairies, trolls, vampires, and all the other magical creatures that "exist." If we didn’t, most genre writing wouldn’t be published.

Okay, all this is great, but what does it have to do with your writing? Plenty.

As writers, we must establish many things in our stories to allow the reader to suspend their belief. This means we can’t just throw a scene into a story where a character does something, without adding reasoning to the story earlier that explains the character’s actions during that scene. As an example, if the writer establishes George Hero as a sword-swinging he-man with no fears, having him go out of his way to avoid fording a river makes no sense. Now, if somewhere in the early part of the story, the writer shows George Hero remembering nearly drowning while bathing as a child, his desire to avoid gathered water makes more sense.

In order for our stories to ring true to our readers, we need to research our facts to guarantee that what we write is plausible. Otherwise, we lose our reader.

Let me come at this from a different angle. Most people look at writers and think we have the easiest job. Hollywood’s portrayal of our work ethic doesn’t help this. However, most people place one hat on their head for their job. As a writer, we must wear a hat that contains all the other hats. We need to know the basics of the chemist, the biologist, the engineer, the computer technician, the police detective, the plumber, the electrician, and the list goes on for several pages. Since each story is different, different hats exist beneath that of our writer’s hat.

Two big fields that I feel we, as writers, need to really pay attention to are psychology and sociology. We need to know that the reaction to rape is not the same as Stockholm Syndrome for a kidnap victim. Our research should bring into account the reactions found in a group as well as the individual. Scream ‘Free Food’ on a college campus, what happens? Scream ‘Bomb’ in an airport, what happens (besides security tackling you and dragging you away for a complete cavity search)?

If we can’t write things so that it resonates correctly with how people react, our readers will object, won’t be able to suspend their disbelief. It won’t matter how good the story idea.

I'm sure you've come across stories that didn't resonate with you. Tell me what you've managed to find.

No comments:

Post a Comment