Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MAKING "MAKE BELIEVE" BELIEVABLE

Current listen:  "Grenade" courtesy of Bruno Mars

The refrain says "I'll catch a grenade for ya..." Really? A grenade...a bomb. Some guy is just going to reach up and grab a flying grenade aimed at his true love. Maybe? Depends on the situation . . . the story. In reality, physically catching a grenade in all probability isn't going to happen. Especially in my reality. Hubby, the hopeless "un-romantic" that he is, would see the grenade heading my way and yell "duck," thinking he'd covered his obligatory spousal duty and leave me to my own devices to get out of the way.

Unicorn Moon Rise Illustration | Stock photo   

But in a "make believe" or fictional world, the one we create for our readers, great care needs to be given so that our readers believe our heroine will be saved when the hero jumps a super-human height and catches the grenade, flinging it into the universe where it detonates and harms no one...in particular the characters they've emotionally invested in. It doesn't matter if it's believable in our world, but it must be in the world we've created...one where superhuman strength exists and grenades aimed at our heroes and heroines is considered "natural."

Computer geek Jimmy Nerd would not suddenly bolt from his desk, open his window and find a grenade spiraling across the park toward the head cheerleader he's dating because hunky football quarterbacks are suddenly dweebs, as she rescues a kitten from a tree, fully clad in her sexy little outfit and holding pom-poms. This causes him to jump from his third story window and land, unharmed, in his polished leather loafers and run through traffic at warp speed (considering he's such an athlete - sitting in front of his computer monitor for hours on end), leaping over the hoods of taxi cabs, sliding under a school bus full of children, only to launch into thin air (and I'm going to put a round guesstimate of approximately 8 feet) and clutch the small missile in his fist without (1) it exploding and sending his spindly body parts into another hemisphere; (2) flinching from the pain a projectile traveling that speed would cause when it hit his grandma soft (ewwe) flesh; (3) or dropping it because his hands would be so large (okay, I know where your mind just went...shame on you) and muscular from moving his computer mouse mere inches all day, and (4) slowing his pace whatsoever, because he would drop back to earth without so much as an "ugh" pushing through his razor thin lips and resume his high velocity sprint to the tree where his beloved sits, unaware. I guess anything's possible...

I'm a rabid Janet Evanovich fan, although I'll confess I didn't start the Stephanie Plum series until book five. She sold me on the opening paragraph (paraphrased):

When I was a little girl I used to dress up Barbie without underpants. On the outside, she'd look like the perfect lady. Tasteful plastic heels, tailored suit. But underneath, she was naked. I'm a .... bounty hunter .... and being a bail enforcement officer is like being a bare-bottomed Barbie. It's about wearing a lot of bravado on the outside when you're really operating without underpants.

I find some part of me in Stephanie Plum. Maybe it's our mutual attraction to Ranger. I pulled this series as an example of making the questionable, believable. Every book shows Stephanie in an absurd and life threatening situation trying to track down her bail skips. Each scenario and lowlife skip walks the boundary of far-fetched in our reality, but in Stephanie Plum's world...the one Janet Evanovich has scripted to perfection, all the crazy shenanigans and consequences are believable. They are natural to the personality of Stephanie's character.

When we create our characters and the world they'll reside in from chapter one through to the end, we have to make sure their personalities are true to the things we have them do, and that they remain consistent. If our bad-ass antagonist suddenly becomes an opera star, or goes from a mean killing machine to rescuing puppies, we better have shown some strong clues and a subtle shift evolving in the personality change, along with a damn good reason why and how it relates to the story, or our readers will blow us off as authors, never trusting in another one of our stories.

We'll become literary liars, promising one thing, but delivering something completely different. As authors, we can't beg forgiveness after the fact. We're already sunk, our careers taking on water faster than we can bail. No one will throw us a life preserver either. There's too many good authors out there and the publishing world isn't going to wait while we patch our dinghies. We'll be left as a snack for the sharks.

Maybe Jimmy Nerd lives in a super-enhanced electronic fantasy world where all the things he does to catch the grenade are possible and something he would do naturally. Like I said, anything is possible when you make the "make-believe" ...believable.

9 comments:

L.L. Muir said...

You're nuts.
Love you.

DoreeAnderson.blogspot.com or Doree.anderson@wordpress.com said...

Great post. Stephanie Plum, huh? Okay, yeah I see it.

Sandy L. Rowland said...

I can see you being that bounty hunting Barbie.
Getting real characters and believable situations means getting real with yourself.
If you believe it, the reader will to.

No guts, no glory.

Great post

Christina Wolfer said...

"...means getting real with yourself. If you believe it, the reader will to." Well said, Sandy.

Funny you should write about this today. I read some reviews for Evanovich's latest books. They swing from loving the story to hating it. I thought, wow, the amount of pressure that is on someone like Evanovich to continue to create believable situations. Some believed, some did not. It made me realize that as an author, my responsibility is to write my story, the characters and the world that I believe in. If I tried to create it for the reader, I would have many versions of the same book in an effort to capture what each of them found believable.

Great post, Joelene.

Loretta said...

I agree:) You're nuts:) But, I think every writer is nuts in one form or another. We all have our stints in the Nut House :)
I think it takes a certain amount of artistic nuttiness to make it in the writing world. Where else would we find all the characters? And, what would we do without the voices in our head?:)
I enjoyed this, Joelene. It made me fell normal. Whatever that is... (WG)

Lo

Loretta said...

Well! I see I "fell" all over normal. Sigh. No coffee. FEEL normal, I FEEL normal. *Snicker*...can't even get *normal* right in here, let alone the writing world. (wide grin now turned into sheepish grin:)

Lo

J. Coleman said...

I'll own "nuts" and "fell" is normal, isn't it? I just realized I did that long paragraph with only one period. An editor would have fried my hide for that. Oh well. And I agree - write your story your way. Your readers follow you because they like your style. Janet Evanovich has a unique style that you love or you don't, but I'm guessing the fact she sleeps on bags of money, her style is liked more than not. Thanks guys!

Sandy B said...

Sometimes a day or so after finishing a book I'll say, "Wait a minute -- that couldn't happen in real life!" But I believed it when I read it because for a moment, that WAS real life.


And that's what good writers do.

Calisa Rhose said...

So right and perfectly stated, Joelene. I think you've hit on a big part of the reason my wolf series is not moving at the speed of publishing light. Well, that and the fact I'm in a dry spot f no writing just now. But still, to keep track of those multiple details from book to book is staggering and complex and ever so important to create believeability. Great post lady!