By Lee Carver
We are well acquainted with the expression “willful suspension of disbelief.” The story may be total fiction, but we are drawn into it to the extent that we choose to believe it could happen. We want to be so lost in a gripping story that we never drop the book or e-reader to our laps and say, “Are you kidding me?”
I borrowed the phrase “truth in lending” from my husband’s financial career and adapted it to “truth in fiction.” First, the sharing of God’s truth in inspirational fiction is an overpowering reason to write. The story may not be factual, but it presents moral and spiritual truths through its characters and plot. Second, the story needs to be researched and plotted well enough that it’s believable.
Granted, Randy Ingermanson can take me on a journey to Mars. He built a space ship that had me gasping for oxygen (in the book of the same name), landed me on Mars, and scared the life out of me in The Fifth Man. I drank that two-book story to the last drop.
Brandilyn Collins’ Double Blind totally convinced me, a former high school biology teacher, that a depressed woman might submit to an experiment that … Well, you really ought to read the way she tells it. The medical and psychological science is totally convincing.
In a novel I once read and also a Spanish movie I viewed, a main character remained in a coma for days or weeks, blissfully sleeping without the need of any bodily care, feeding, or liquids. How would you respond to this sweet romantic fiction? I never finished the novel, though I could hardly leave my teacher and Spanish class and walk out of the theater.
Fantasy writers are instructed to construct their imaginary worlds with care, but do historical writers do the same? Ideally, research and imagination combine to produce a novel which reads more like history than fiction. If a cattle drive is a hundred miles, it doesn’t happen in three days. No mountains occur on the Chism Trail. And it may take delving into human psychology to mold a character who acts with consistent motivation to the last scene. The novels of psychologist Judith Rolfs do this to perfection.
More than a year ago, a publisher hired me to do a line edit. When I returned the edit, I also listed five reasons why the story couldn’t have happened. The novel was published, and the publisher never gave me another task, and that’s okay. I was clearly a bad fit for their product.
In my opinion, more research is often required to fit together the puzzle pieces of a plot. The author should shun comic book action and put in thought enough to figure out a way something really could happen. My point is simple: it may not be true, but it ought to be believable.
Lee Carver is once again failing at retirement, a hybrid author in every sense: fiction and nonfiction, traditionally and independently published. She also does freelance editing, formatting, and uploads as well as being a Stephen Minister, alto in the choir, crocheting with Pray Shawl Ministry, and volunteer pianist, among other activities. Married forty-eight years to a very tolerant man, they have two children and five grandchildren. Her latest release is Retreat to Shelter Creek.