Writing Plausible Fiction
When I was still in high school our English instructor would give us a group of words and then ask the students to write a fictitious story that included them all. Although it was a vocabulary building exercise, I remember one instance where the instructor took the lesson a step farther.
I had written a short story about an enthusiastic hunter who had taken his friends on a hunt for pheasant. As three boys searched the field for game, one of the young men had accidentally bumped the safety off on his shotgun. He tripped and it went off narrowly missing his friends. I had set the story up fine with one exception — in an effort to use the final word in the vocabulary, I mistakenly described the gun exploding, scattering buckshot at the feet of the other two boys. The teacher immediately marked my effort down with bright red marks. “Even a novice hunter knows you don’t hunt pheasant with buckshot,” he said before the entire class. “If you’re going to tell a story — make it plausible.” Embarrassing? Oh yeah! But, he got his point across and I’ve never forgotten it. In fact, to this day I’m critical of movies and stories alike that place characters in such positions that the wildest imagination could barely accept.
Unfortunately, the lack of plausibility is still a problem with many writers. Just yesterday I came across a book authored by a rather successful author who sells over 1000 novels a month on Amazon. I’ve not read the book. However, several reviewers suggested they found the plot interesting — the book was being marked down substantially because the credibility of the characters and the events they were involved in were not plausible. Personally, I don’t place a lot of stock in most reviews. But those remarks did ring a bell with me.
Any writer will tell you the goal of a good story is to touch the emotions of the reader. Make them happy. Make them cry. Make them angry. Somehow, pull them into the plot. I couldn’t agree more.
But, in the process….keep it real.
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