Saturday, February 7, 2015

Who said Fiction had to be believable? CROCK!

I've read many articles, blogs, guidelines, and publisher requirements that all say fiction has to be believable or the characters and plot lose credibility.

Countless reviewers will state that the reason for their low rating of a book is because they found it unbelievable. REALLY? Then why aren't they reading the newspaper, biographies, memoirs, history, and countless other factual and believable narratives.

Before I go further, let's just review a few synonyms for the word FICTION:

  •      Fable, fantasy, myth, tale, yarn, concoction, crock, fabrication, falsehood, fancy, fib, hooey, improvisation, invention, lie, misrepresentation, untruth, whopper, figment of imagination, tall story, storytelling.

Now, let's look at the antonyms:

  •      Reality, Truth.. and I might add, credibility.

I think it would be truthful to say that people read fiction to be entertained--not educated. And while both can be found and enjoyed in a work of fiction, the very genre necessitates un-reality.

As an avid reader, I love fiction. I look forward to losing myself in a world that I've never visited, meeting characters I would never have a chance to meet in my real world, and to suspend myself in the fictional fabrication of both. I don't want my fictional world to duplicate the one I know. I don't want the characters to think, feel, or act exactly like all those who inhabit my reality. I want the fictional world to challenge my boundaries; and I want the fictional characters to be bigger-than-life, in the sense that they don't act as expected, say what they should, or always play nice.

And while I'm ranting, let me just say that TRUTH can be one of the most unbelievable aspects of life. How many times have you read a headline only to say to yourself, "Unbelievable!"

In short, those who don't like heights, shouldn't climb mountains. Those who hate water, shouldn't scuba dive. And those who want total believability in their reading material, should stick with owner manuals.

Fiction is, and always will be, a lie told with humor, anxiety, fear, mystery, and romance. Hopefully it will entertain, but don't expect it to follow the pattern of your reality.

Don't insult an author of fiction by stating that their story was unbelievable, just stick with non-fiction...


  1. Lynda, I'm right behind you on this although I also feel CERTAIN things have to be believable. For instance, if I'm reading romance, I have to swallow that this particular heroine would fall for this particular guy and so on. IN other words, not only the motives of the characters but what MOTIVATES them has to somehow be in the realms of possibility, and that has to be built by the author. In The Thornbirds we all believe (I think!) that the priest falls in love, but would we have believed it if he'd fallen in love with someone who'd just walked in off the street? This is a very timely discussion for me because I'm currently judging and one of the books just doesn't sit right for this very reason. Too bad I can't discuss more openly for obvious reasons. But let us remember, you're right, truth IS stranger than fiction.

  2. Lynda, congrats on your new Author Page, love the look.
    Now, back to your blog. You have really taken on a complex and tough subject with this one. I feel that fiction is definitely fiction, but I also feel the reader has to "suspend belief" so I guess I'm kind of back to what Andrea says, that the characters and their motivations, especially with regard to their romance, has to be believable and properly presented for the reader. As to learning stuff when reading fiction, I always love to learn new things, but like you say, they have to be presented properly, not like a lesson.
    So, I guess I kind of walk a middle line on this. I just finished a romance book with Texas Rangers and their encounters and subsequent victories over numerous bad guys really stretched my credibility. However, since this was a romance and the romance was well-written, I still enjoyed the book, as the gunfights, etc., was not what I was reading the book for. So, fiction vs. fact, is probably, in the final analysis, going to be in the eye of the beholder, or each individual reader.

  3. I so agree, Hebby. So much about this issue has to do with perspective.

    I don't like contrived plot elements that just serve to fill page count. But when a writer takes a leap of imagination to connect the dots or advance a plot, it makes me uncomfortable to hear that work described as unbelievable. Who's to say it hasn't already occurred, isn't occurring at the present, or will never occur in the future? And I'm not talking about Sci-Fi or fantasy, I'm just talking about the crazy turn of events that pop up in everyone's life, unexplained, unexpected, and unbelievable.

    Lately I've read several reviews that voice this complaint. These reviews are of books I've read and found entertaining, adventurous, and unique. So, it leaves me thinking that there is a definite problem with the idea that FICTION must always follow the rules of reality.

    Thank you so much for voicing your perspective. I love hearing everyone's input.

  4. This is wonderful. My debut novel is between the first and second-round of edits, and I woke up this morning wondering if I'd receive the same complaint, even though one of my characters is a fairy godmother. I have this page bookmarked, just in case.

  5. Hi Tammy, If it happens, just say 'Crock' and go ahead and write the story your way. Look at some of our most popular books and movies, nothing about them is really believable, they're just fabricated so well that for a moment in time, the writer or actors make us believe in their fictional reality. Now that's UNVELIEVABLE! BUT SO ENJOYABLE.