Quote of the Day

“If you want to build a car, you don’t slap a bunch of iron ore, some sand, a rubber tree, and a couple of cows together and call it good…” – Patricia C. Wrede

It’s from this post.

I love it.  Trying to picture what that would look like just makes me laugh.

Her post also has relevance.  It’s about how you can’t just include something that happened in real life in your story and assume that your reader will buy it.

Over on one of the forums someone was complaining yesterday about this exact issue.  They had a negative review on their book for a part of the book that had actually happened in real life.  The reviewer called it clichéd.  (And it was.)

The author wanted to argue with them because “it really happened.”

That’s irrelevant.

Just because something actually happened in real life doesn’t make it good material for fiction.

I also think many writers assume that because something actually happened in real life that they don’t need to explain the event.

It’s the exact opposite.  If you include something from real life you need to work to make sure that the event fits seamlessly into the story.

If I’m making an event up, it’s generally part of the natural flow.

If I instead insert something that “really happened” into the story, I have to include a lot more foreshadowing, description, and/or explanation to make the event fit.

At the OSC workshop he said something I think is really interesting.  Which is that you can make anything believable in fiction.  (Anything.)  The key is breaking it down into small enough steps.

And deciding whether it’s worth the page space to do so.

OSC explained that the solution to your problem on page 250 when something “unexpected” occurs is to lay better groundwork earlier in the book.  Or to expand that scene from three pages to three chapters.

The question is, is it worth it to spend that much time on making that one event believable?

So…circling back to PCW’s quote above and integrating OSC’s advice.

Your story has to stand alone.  The events contained within the story have to work together.  You can’t cite outside references (like real life) to get someone to buy into your story.  (Although that does make me think of a funny story idea…)

You, as the author, have to lay the proper groundwork to make the events within the story believable to the reader of the story.  Think of it as a small little universe that has to work all by itself.

(Having said that, i just had this whole tangential thought about genre and established tropes and…hm.  Not fully formed yet, but I’m thinking in some instances you can rely on genre expectation a bit, so you don’t have to have everything within the story explained.)

(Then again, you never explain everything.  Part of writing is assuming that the character’s world works and not having to stop to explain little thing like electricity and lightbulbs and fridges and…Hm.)

(I’m rambling.  I’m stopping now.)

Anyway.  Great quote.  Made me laugh.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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