No One Would Ever Believe That!

This was another panel I attended at Bouchercon and it was about how much can you write that people will actually accept in a book. Panelists were Cathy Pickens, Sophie Hannah, GM Malliet, Diana Orgain, Stephanie Pintoff

Most readers will accept just about anything as long as it is plausible.

Could what you've written happen even once?

It's the authors job to make the reader believe.

If the writers does a good job, the reader should be transported to the realm of the book.

There is a big difference between possibility and probability.

A lot more is possible than what we think.

Our experiences aren't necessarily the same as those of others.

The general consensus was that if the reader likes the book, will probably suspend their disbelief.

My thoughts on this subject are that you want the book to be exciting enough that the reader won't even worry about the possibility. Most of the books we really love reading stretch probability.


C. N. Nevets said…
This is a great post and it sounds like a great discussion. In my experience, it's really internal verisimilitude that matters most. Real life -- who cares? But, within the context of the book, do the things that happen make sense and feel consistent?

That, I think, is where readers can more often get hung up.
Anne R. Allen said…
This is an important subject and it's where critique groups so often get hung up. Somebody says "A___ would never do____" and people jump on the bandwagon. But the truth is only you know what your character would do. Sometimes groups tend to try to make everything too cookie-cutter and bland.
I like these ideas...I agree. When I'm reading, I do tend to think about the context in which the story is written (time, place, etc.), and if it's not too far off, I'll go with it.

When I write, I like to consider those factors, too. If my characters are engaged in technological stuff (in the sixties), it doesn't make sense.
I try to remember that people didn't have cell phones or the Internet, and there were still pay phones on lots of corners.

Little details....
Monti said…
Thanks for sharing this workshop, Marilyn! You're right--if you're really engrossed in a book, you don't stop to think about the probability this could really happen!

Indigo said…
I had this discussion with my Beta reader. He thought something I wrote was a far stretch from believable. He later explained the scene itself was fine, I just needed to reword it in such a way it felt more natural.

It's a narrow ledge at times, but I believe anything goes.(Hugs)Indigo

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