How much realism do readers want and expect in a novel? Authors worry about this all the time. Some go so far as to check things like sunrise and sunset time tables, and the GPS location of a certain building in the city where their story is set so their references are accurate.
I say, lighten up my fellow authors! It IS fiction, after all. That's what the willing suspension of disbelief is for.
While I do agree we need to make the guns and explosives accurate, and I do tons of research for my own books, I don't get all bent out of shape if the author of a book I'm reading puts Tom's Tavern in Golden instead of Boulder. In fact, I can't think of a single novel I ever gave up on because the author made something like that up.
After all, it's the story that counts. I try to make my stories compelling and fast moving even if I have to ignore reality at times. I will always put the story first.
After all, one of the first things we learn when we begin writing fiction is that it doesn't have to BE real, it just has to SEEM real.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I recently read an interesting discussion on a writer's blog about book time - how to accomplish everything that needs to happen in the abbreviated time frame of a mystery or romance novel. Characters grow and change, travel, meetings and conversations must occur to move the the story forward, but those events aren't necessarily shown on the page. Still the reader needs to be somehow grounded in time and place to avoid confusion. Well, it's a challenge to a writer, for sure.
Book time is something I'm very aware of when I'm writing, but not so much when I'm reading except when I'm reading romance or romantic suspense. Then I have a lot of trouble with characters who hate each other at the beginning of the book then suddenly love each other. There has to be a darn good reason why she loves him after hating him, and I mean something other than a good sexual encounter. He has to do something really extraordinary to make her change her mind during the space and time limits of a 60,000 to 100,000 word book or I don't believe it as a reader.
Otherwise, when I'm reading I pretty much go with the flow of the story timeline without noticing the book time passing unless it's called to my attention by the author. To be honest, the quick 45 minute solution to most television series is why I don't watch much television. When I do watch a TV series, it's usually one that continues the story from week to week, like "The Good Wife" or "Damages" or "Rubicon" or "The Tudors" or "The Event."
One of the reasons I'm so aware of this challenge in my writing is that some time ago I had a previous agent tell me that the "time tags" I used, you know, those lines at the beginning of chapters giving the date or day of that chapter's events, was too distracting. I had to change it and incorporate the book time passing in the text.
Later, in another manuscript, I had an editor tell me that my book time passing references within the text was a bad habit. So I truly struggle with that in all my writing.