Let’s talk for a minute about truth.
Truth is the single most important thing any fiction writer can learn. It’s the answer to every question and the defense to any criticism. It is why we do what we do.
Let me get new-agey for a moment. If you write, you’re not just creating that from nothing. Any writer knows this. There’s a muse or a divine spark in your head that feeds you those transmissions from the great beyond, and even though it’s fiction, it happened to somebody somewhere.
That’s laying it on a bit thick, but you get my point.
Anyone who has ever known a liar in their life knows that the truth just sounds different. There’s a ring and a hum to it that resonates within us all… Even if that truth lies within a secret plot by Martian’s to invade Ohio. Just Ohio, nothing else.
The key lies in the logic of your story and the reflexivity of your characters. The first is bendable, the second isn’t. But both have to remain consistent to successfully suspend your readers’s disbelief and engage them in your story.
Suspension of disbelief is a very real thing, and if it isn’t obeyed than nobody is going to pick up what you’re putting down. I’ve seen gaffs that can’t be followed in premises as simple as a romantic comedy. I’ve also completely believed epics on other planets, such as Firefly.
Whether your world is completely made up or just a fictionalized version of our world, you have to establish the rules of your world and never break them.
People cannot return from the dead in the Engen Universe. We will never break this rule. To do so would undermine everything Ellen and I have created. On the other hand, people have noticed that everyone in Coral Beach tends to heal a little faster than normal people… This may be a plot point, but it also serves as narrative convenience. Just because Mike gets hurt in book 2 doesn’t mean I want to deal with him in crutches for 10 books.
Once the rules of your story are in place, it’s up to your characters to respond to the events therein appropriately. If Jimmy Five sees an alien spacecraft fry a pedestrian, don’t have him say “Gosh!” (And I’ve seen almost that exact thing happen, with that reaction). If your characters don’t react realistically, your readers will become “aware” of the story.
But if you obey your own rules (whatever they may be) and have the characters react in realistic, character-specific ways than the reader will follow you anywhere. AND you’ll find after a while that you are “seeing” the movie through the cosmic projector in your mind. And you’ll just be telling it like it is.
It’ll be the truth.
Never Look Back