Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reality for the Writer: Verisimilitude for the Reader

What’s easy about being a fiction writer? You need a marketable “concept” that “captures the reader’s or viewer’s imagination, excites their senses, gets them asking ‘what if,’ and sparks them to start imagining the story even before they have read a word.” – Jeff Lyons

Then after completing a novel executing that concept, you still need an agent, marketing plan, publisher, maybe a publicist. How do you keep one foot in the marketing world, and the other in the one your imagination built? A smidgen of reality facilitates all those challenges:

~ Admit your goals.

Which matters more: the book you long to write, or its publication? If the latter, don’t write chick lit after its time has passed. Don’t invent a revolutionary point of view or have sixteen protagonists. Be honest about what you want to facilitate achieving it.

~ Put a beautifully-shod foot forward.

Agents—and readers—appreciate not just Concept, but quality. Don’t shop your book until the scenario is strong, the characters multi-dimensional, the tension high, the plot causal, and the writing musical. Plus whatever else makes your novel all it could be.

~ Persevere.

Hard as this is, you mustn’t take rejection personally. Agents have bad days and unfair biases. Publishers aren’t raking in dough. Readers have a zillion choices. Here, it’s not the early bird that gets the worm, but the bird that tried over and over and over. And over.

Tip: Stupid as it sounds, you need realistic goals and a realistic strategy for accomplishing them.

That’s the writer part. What about the reader part?

Fiction is far less about reality than a simulation of it that imposes greater credibility, causality, and morality than daily life. As Mark Twain put it, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.”  What to do?

~ Eliminate coincidence.
If it happened, we must accept it. In fiction? Not so much. Perhaps not at all!

~ Make us believe.

Lauren Groff notes, “as a writing teacher of mine once said, very gently, to a student who handed in work formed out of the rough stuff of her life, ‘That it happened doesn’t make it true.”  The novelist must make it seem true—with all the complexity and effort that entails.

~ Grant justice.

Who wants bad guys winning and good ones losing? That’s what the news is for.

Tip: Good fiction doesn’t re-create reality; it imitates it.

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