You’re happily reading along and BLAM, you stop dead because something does not ring true. Maybe there is a coincidence that isn’t feasible. Or a situation makes no sense. Or a characterdoes something bonkers and out of the range of expectations. Someone or something is not believable. Hitting something unbelievable while reading is like running into a brick wall.
If you’re a writer, you want everything about your story to be believable, right? Writers are on the lookout for anyone or anything that seems improbable. Yet, creating believable characters, situations, scenarios, and so on can be easier said (or typed) than accomplished. I know. Not so long ago, a valued reader questioned the believability of the actions of one of the characters in my work in progress. Yup, this reader face-planted against a wall.
What to do? Here are a few tips:
1. If there is a believability problem, try pointing it out. When characters note that something seems improbable,that situation may be defused. It may no longer be the great ape in the room.
2. Nix any coincidences. If something seems too convenient or easy, it probably is. Try foreshadowing the scene or coincidental element. Set ups usually erase coincidences.
3. Use back-story to legitimize a character’s behavior. A past experience or experiences might justify or provide an understandable reason for a character’s actions.
Have you ever come upon something unbelievable while reading? Did this feel like hitting a wall?
Writers, have you had a brilliant reader pick out something that he or she couldn’t buy into? If so, how’d you fix the believability issue?
photo by mconnors, www.morguefile.com