Can You Believe It?
You’d think writing about a real-life event would be easy. For some reason, though, every time I try to do this, people say it’s not realistic. This makes me just want to scream and say, “Wait! But it really happened. I’m telling the truth, promise!”
The truth is, it’s not about that. It’s more about how well I’ve anchored the characters to the setting and established their traits enough that it’s believable they’d do something like that. For example, lets say two friends were walking down a crowded street and one man sees a car coming toward the one. Instead of dragging the friend out of the way, the guy shoves him toward the car.
Well, if you’ve painted that character as a villain, great. It would make sense for a bad guy to do something like that. But if it’s a preacher that everyone loves and trusts making the same action, then you’d better put in some internal reflection to back that action up before you have him do it.
So here’s what I’ve learned about credibility.
1. Don’t tell it just like it is. If you’re writing a story, you have to embellish details a little bit. One reason is that real life is sometimes bland. The other reason is because writing a story is like looking at the event through a different lens. In the same way that touching a picture of an apple isn’t the same as holding it in your hands, a few words on a page cannot do justice to the real-life emotions you feel and the body language, gestures, etc. that you experience. So, you have to add those in to paint a better picture.
The funny thing is that a lot of times I do a great job convincing readers that something completely impossible has happened when I can’t make them believe the truth. I think the problem all goes back to lazy writing. If I already know what it feels like, then why do I need to make extra effort to describe it? Well, believe me, that extra effort makes all the difference.
2. Fiction is supposed to be, well, fiction. It’s important to respect the privacy of your friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers. There’s nothing like writing something less than flattering about a friend and having them blatantly deny its truth. (Not that I’ve done that, ha ha. I’ve just seen examples of it). Some of my Kentucky friends, for example, are offended when I put dialect into the story. Sure, we really do talk this way, but it might be uncomfortable to see it in print. A story can be like a mirror, and no one wants to stare at a bad reflection.
Only 3 this time 🙂
3. Details make all the difference. Good writing should make you feel something, like you’re experiencing it right there along with the author. It’s hard to believe something that doesn’t “take you there.” Use all the senses (thanks Kimberly Grenfell! Best advice ever!!!). What do your characters smell, taste, feel, touch, and hear. If you can describe them in a way that the reader seems to experience them, they’ll be drawn in to the story.
Personal side note. This has been a lot of fun. Keep the questions coming. If you want, you can comment directly on the site instead of sending me a Facebook message. The comment box is at the top of the post, a gray speech bubble just to the right of the title. Or, if you want to ask privately in a message, that’s fine, too. 🙂
Have a blessed day! Upcoming: Stalking All Your Friends
Stay tuned for another look into the Mind of Mynk