Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Creating Credible Fiction

Andrew E. Kaufman, author of While the Savage Sleeps, and the upcoming book, The Lion, The Lamb, The Hunted, wrote an interesting blog post, “Why the Decision to Kill off a Character can be Murder on an Author.”

Andrew said it well! Fiction has to be larger than life and credible. We have to build a realistic world as we create our stories. So I agree with his comment: “Our job, although writers of fiction, is to depict life in a realistic manner, make the reader forget she's actually reading.”

Our characters tell the story they want to tell and sometimes it can be difficult to kill of one of the characters. But the important thing in writing realistic characters is that even the bad guys may have some redeeming features. That makes them human. My husband, Don Pendleton, the “father of action/adventure,” was very good at that. Sometimes you hated when his bad guys were knocked off. He wrote in his book, Metaphysics of the Novel: The Inner Workings of a Novel and a Novelist:
“If you have villains in your story make sure you have made them powerful and resourceful, not reduced to the idiot level. In real life, the bad guys are highly formidable and dangerous individuals. Real life is full of grim games played by grim people. So should your fictional world be, if that is the type of story you are presenting. Do not indulge in some juvenile misunderstanding of the forces that move and shake this world. Some people are dangerous, not because a gun is in their hand, but because something cold and deadly is in their hearts. So make sure you are presenting a credible world with the world of your novel.”

After all, we are writing about the human situation, no matter what predicaments we place our characters in. Life itself presents challenges, drama, pain, joy, grief, wonder, and more, and a successful novelist is called upon to examine and develop deeper insights into the moving forces that power creativity. Writing is an art, and it is up to the artist to produce a living image of reality.

The author is in charge of his own fictional world, and that fictional world needs to be understandable, coherent, and credible. But it is our own story to create, and not everybody may like it. And that is just fine.