Ask Jami: How Can We Make a Story Believable?
Years ago, I talked about some of the issues that can take a reader out of the story. It’s an important problem to learn about because as soon as immersion is broken for a reader, their suspension of disbelief is at risk.
There are plenty of books and movies I’ve enjoyed until about five minutes after the end. Then my analytical nature takes over and thinks, “Hey, wait a minute…,” and I start deconstructing all the aspects that didn’t make sense. (My family’s plot hole analyses are epic. *smile*)
At least in those cases, I was pulled enough into the story that I didn’t notice the issues until after the fact (which is why it’s so important to keep readers immersed). What’s even worse is if the unbelievable aspects are bad enough to kick readers out of the story midway.
Those readers aren’t likely to pick up the book again. Or if they do, it might be to live tweet all the details they find craptastic or to write a hate-read review. Obviously then, we want to make our story as believable as possible, within the expectations of our genre.
Today’s post is prompted by a question from P.J. Quirino:
“What does it mean to make a story believable? Does it mean to create scenes and world and emotions in the story that a reader can relate to and can feel what the character feels?”
That’s not a straightforward question because there are many ways our stories can feel unbelievable. Let’s dig deeper and see if we can discover some tips and elements to watch out for.
The Many Faces of Unbelievable Storytelling
Storytelling is always about finding a balance. We have to make our stories clear enough to avoid confusion, but we also need to leave enough in the subtext that our prose isn’t too on-the-nose. We have to explore our characters’ emotions to lure in our readers, but we don’t want to slow down the pace. And we have to make our plot both unexpected and inevitable at the same time.
(Easy, right? Or not…)
When it comes to believability, issues could crop up within the plot, characters, or worldbuilding. We have to find the right balance within each of those areas, or readers won’t buy the story we’re selling (literally and figuratively).
(I really hope no one ever told you that writing would be easy. *smile*)
However, there’s no always-right “don’t do this” advice because believability varies widely by genre. Unless we’re writing the equivalent of the novel version of the movie From Dusk to Dawn, what’s going to be believable in a contemporary bank heist story is going to be different from what’s believable in a vampire horror story.
So the first aspect of believability to check might be:
- Ensure the premise is plausible within the bounds of genre expectations.
As I mentioned in my older post:
“Science fiction authors have to make the technology sound believable. Legal thrillers have to play out according to set laws. Paranormal authors have to decide if modified DNA, magic, or other things determine the rules of the world.”
Furthermore, within each of the genres, there’s variety based on tone, mood, setting, etc. A spy thriller could be based in U.S. Revolutionary War days and be light but serious, or a spy thriller could be based in contemporary Japan and be dark but funny. Each of those variations will change the suspension of disbelief necessary, as well as the line for plausible and believable.
If we receive feedback that our story isn’t believable, but we’re not suffering from any of the specific problems below, we might want to double check reader expectations. Was there a mismatch between our genre, premise, style, or setting? Did readers expect one kind of story and we delivered a different kind of story?
In that case, we might look at our genre category, book description, tagline, or marketing. Those are all things we could change to match the story we have, rather than trying to redesign our whole story.
However, many times something might be unbelievable within the story itself and need to be resolved. Let’s take a look at the most likely culprits.
Frequent Issues with Unbelievable Plots
Storytelling doesn’t like coincidences when they make the situation too easy on the character. This is the “Oh, she just happened to run into the person she was looking for but didn’t know how to find” problem. It’s too convenient to be believable.
Random events that are coincidences are only liked when they make things harder on the characters. Harder = Okay. Easier = Not Okay.
When plots get so convoluted that readers are confused, they might give up trying to figure it out and just think it’s too implausible. In other words, this is the opposite of too many easy coincidences. Here, there are too many moving pieces to believe that they’d all come together for the resolution in a realistic way.
Not Enough Conflict or Tension:
This is similar to the coincidences issue, in that things are too easy for our characters. Life is hard, so readers want to see the characters struggle. It’s too unbelievable when they skate through the story.
Forcing Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) Actions
Some plot events force the character to act as puppets to the plot. They have to do something the character would know was A Bad Idea because without it, the plot falls apart. Readers can’t believe the character would do such a stupid thing.
Frequent Issues with Unbelievable Characters
This is the character side of the issue of being a puppet to the plot. If we have to make characters do something for the plot to work, we need to give them really good reasons to do that thing, and those reasons need to fit their character. We can’t have a character suddenly take a stand on, say, violence, unless we’ve established their commitment to pacifism earlier. The motivations have to feel true to the character to be believable.
Real people are flawed, so characters that have no flaws don’t seem real. It’s often our characters’ flaws that make them relatable. Imperfect characters are more believable.
Mary Sue/Gary Stu:
Mary Sue or Gary Stu characters are often too perfect and cliché, but another common trait of these characters is that all the other characters love and adore them. This trait creates low conflict and makes things too easy for them during the story. All those problems added together create a very unbelievable character.
Nice people aren’t always nice, but in books, if a character acts differently from how readers expect, more explanation is needed. For example, a character could be nice but show meanness in a scene if a reason is given.
Were they upset or tired? Do they feel guilty now? If those reasons aren’t given to show how their different character traits interact and relate, the character’s characterization will feel too convoluted and unbelievable.
Part of making a character relatable is making them somewhat predictable based on what we know of real people. If we know a character has a horrible backstory wound about being betrayed, we’d predict that their motivations would lead them to try to avoid being betrayed again, and if it happens again anyway, we’d predict that they’d be devastated, or at least upset.
If characters don’t react strongly enough—or react too strongly—that mismatch can make them seem not real. Readers need to buy into our characters to suspend their disbelief for everything else. Like the characterization issue above, if characters don’t react as readers expect, an explanation is needed to keep them believable.
Frequent Issues with Worldbuilding
Details Don’t Make Sense or Fit Together:
Was the magic system explained one way in this scene and another way in that scene? Was an Army Private placed in charge of a platoon? Was a billionaire flying coach?
Some worldbuilding issues come down to premise issues, while others suffer from being poorly thought out or explained. Either way, the details have to make sense to be believable.
Not Enough Details:
Even worse than a poor explanation is not explaining some aspect of the world at all. At least with a poor explanation, readers might assume that we thought about the issue. When there’s no explanation, we leave readers with the impression that we couldn’t be bothered or that we were oblivious to the need.
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “hand-waved it away,” the core problem is often a lack of details. Think of the wizard saying, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Dorothy and her companions didn’t believe that line and neither will our readers.
Finding and Fixing Believability Issues
Honestly, that list above is just the issues I thought of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more, and I hope we’ll compare notes in the comments.
Like many aspects of our writing, we might not be able to find these problems on our own. We once again have to rely on our beta readers, critique groups, or editors to help us identify aspects that aren’t believable. Hopefully this list will give us a head start on figuring out what the cause might be.
By analyzing those problems above, we can see many similar threads. Our stories need to:
- be plausible within our genre,
- mesh the style, setting, and genre,
- avoid making things too easy for our characters (show the struggle),
- not make things so convoluted that only coincidences could force the pieces into place,
- provide appropriate explanations for actions, motivations, and worldbuilding specifics, and
- make characters seem real and relatable through flaws, emotions, hardships, etc.
All that said, believability is often a subjective measure. Some readers can’t suspend their disbelief enough to read fantastical stories at all. So don’t panic if one reader thinks something isn’t believable that others think is just fine. Our goal here is to make our story believable enough that most readers will become immersed. Because immersed readers turn the page. *smile*
Have you ever read an unbelievable story, and if so, what made it unbelievable to you? Have you ever received feedback that your story was unbelievable? Did you figure out the issue, and if so, how? Can you think of other issues that frequently cause believability issues? Do you have other advice for how to fix those issues?Pin It
This is one of those, well, interesting things with series.
I write unreliable narrators who not infrequently make assumptions or misinterpret things. I’ve had a few readers complain, “But X!” and the answer is “Precisely.” (Which is part of why I think my work qualifies as a literary-genre blend.) I’ve gotten a few comments from readers who say “Something feels off, but I’m not sure what…” and then in reading book 4 on Wattpad, they’ve gone, “OH! I get it!”
Like any other writing choice, it limits my audience to readers who don’t notice or who notice but are willing to stick with it to see if it’s intentional…but it also means that once a reader sticks with it and enjoys the intentionality of it, they go looking for other things I’ve written, too.
(My newsletter is set up so folks can sign up for news about specific genres/pennames/story worlds. So far, EVERYONE has signed up for updates about “all”.)
Great point! For every story, there’s a balance between explaining too much (like an info dump) and not enough. We do want to create story questions. Questions=good. Confusion=bad. 🙂
That’s a tricky balance in any story much less when we’re dealing with a series. I recently read a review of a story I loved complaining that xyz (the issue tying the series together) wasn’t explained at the end of book one. Of course it wasn’t–that’s the overall series mystery. It wasn’t a confusing aspect, so I trusted the author to build on that in later stories. Some people just want instant gratification maybe? LOL!
The best we can do is develop an author voice that conveys confidence. If readers trust our storytelling ability, I think they’re more willing to go along on issues that feel off, trusting that we have our reasons. But that’s a highly subjective aspect of our voice and stories. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience!
When you mentioned the “modified DNA” I immediately thought of Star Wars and the midi-chlorians being the reason for someone to have the Force. I hated that explanation! It completely took me out of the story. Whenever I think of it, it makes me cringe.
Since I write historical fiction set in the 10th century, one thing I need to watch out for is creating characters who are out of their *place*. Kings and other wealthy people talked, acted, dressed, and ate in a different way than peasants. If I have kings or peasants who don’t know their place and it’s not part of the story line, then I’m doing something that isn’t believable.
LOL! Yes, that’s a great example of how fans were more willing to suspend their disbelief with less information. This is no easy balance, that’s for sure! Great examples for your genre too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
A lot of science fiction films lose me in the trailer. If it’s supposed to be a fantasy type of science fiction where there are no rules, e.g. Doctor Who, the plausibility of it isn’t an issue for me. It’s films like Sunshine that bug me, where it is presented as if it were plausible. It looked great at the beginning of the trailer but then came the dodgy scientific premise which completely ruined it for me. The “human” element of the story was fine but the sci-fi backdrop was terrible for me. And in all seriousness, who would name a vessel on a mission to the Sun, Icarus? The absolute worst offender has to be Star Trek: Into Darkness. The first ten minutes of that made me weep. If keeping the Enterprise hidden from the indigenous population was such a priority, why not stay in orbit rather than “hide” in the sea? And the volcano? Urgh. That type of volcano couldn’t possibly cause an extinction level disaster and the cold fusion bomb is nonsense. Cold fusion doesn’t make things cold, it’s fusion at room temperature as opposed to the naturally occurring hot fusion in a star. Even if it were possible to solidify the lava in the volcano, volcanoes erupt because of pressure, not heat so it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference *runs around screaming and waving hands* I get that they wanted to make a big impact and I understand the juxtaposition of fire and water, but… — Read More »
LOL! Yes, there was that Scarlett Johansson movie this past summer with the concept of “humans use only 10% of their brain,” which is hogwash. (I still wanted to see the movie though… 😉 )
And believe me, with all those ST:ID errors, I understand why you’d be upset. I knew only half of that and still thought it was ludicrous (now thinking of Spaceballs‘ “Ludicrous Speed” *snort*). Thanks for sharing what makes stories work or not work for you!
Ah yes, I remember that the internet was awash with derision at that!
Whether it’s a film or a book, I don’t think it’s impossible to have your cake and eat it when it comes to plausibility vs artistic licence. In the case of ST:ID, the storyline was fine and it wouldn’t have lost anything by some fine tuning.
In my WIP there’s a lot of scenes that revolve around psychic ability which I have a feeling I’ve taken a little too much licence with. Fortunately, one of my closest friends is a psychic so I shall be getting her to sort the wheat from the chaff before I get too far into revisions.
Very true! Plausible storytelling is often about finding the right explanation and not about saying “you can’t do that.” 🙂 Good luck with your story and thanks for the comment!
This might be a bit nit picky of me but sometimes word choice can throw me out of a story just as readily as a glaring deus ex machina moment. Having a fantasy/medieval setting yet a character describes something in modern terminology is one of the bigger offenders. Dialog that uses more modern slang or even slang that is too antiquated to be easily understood is another issue I’ve seen crop up in the genres. Even using the wrong words for weapons gets me at times (some authors mix up broadswords with what are actually claymores).
The other thing that gets me is having a young character act too old or vice versa. I recently put down a fantasy novel after only a few pages for this reason. The whole premise was implausible to me once I realized the MC was supposed to be fourteen and I’d not once got the impression he was anything less than late 20s early 30s.
Ooo, great point! Word choice is something that can throw us out of a story. Age is a really tricky one because I’ve known kids all over the map as far as maturity, but I understand what you mean. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Oh yeah, I understand that. Sorrow’s Fall features a sixteen year old who is very mature for his age due to circumstances, but he still acts like a sixteen year old for the most part. I think what threw me off with this was I was expected to believe that a group of hardened warriors would follow this boy just because he was a prince with a penchant for extreme violence. Though that is probably just my personal viewpoint.
Ha! Yeah, that’s not just a voice issue but a plausibility issue if no other character ever questions that situation. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
My pet peeve (mentioned by Davonne) are deus ex machina resolutions. One of my favorite speculative fiction authors does that ALL THE TIME and it drives me bonkers! Her world-building, character development, and plotting (up to a point) are so amazing that I keep reading her stuff anyway, hoping that this time she won’t just reach an impasse (or arbitrary page limit) and bring in some aliens to save the day. I love everything she does…until the climax. I haven’t given up on her (yet) but I also don’t recommend her books to others because I find her resolutions so frustrating.
Yikes! Yeah, deus ex machina resolutions are a hard limit for me because they’re so incredibly frustrating from a storytelling perspective. I wouldn’t be able to read another book by that authors. LOL! Thanks for sharing!
Ha – I have Greek gods in my series. The whole thing is supposed to be tongue in cheek for the most part, so I have an Irish Catholic teamed up with Athena in charge of the Time Agency, and he absolutely hates it when one of her relatives does the deus ex machina thing to get his girlfriend/future wife (Athena’s daughter) out of trouble.
LOL! That’s hysterical! That’s the story version of “hanging a lampshade” (pointing it out) on the deus ex machina technique. What a great idea! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
The first three adults who read my WIP all had issues with a snowstorm at the beginning – I had in my head a 100% realistic scenario, patterned on Real World Geography. Take Buena Vista, a small town in South Park, Colorado, located around 9,000 feet elevation, the top of Cottonwood pass around 13,000 feet elevation, and then a mining claiming on the far side of the pass, down around 8,000 feet elevation.
But I didn’t want to get all bogged down explaining for flatlanders that going up 1000 feet causes climate to change equivalent to going north about 300 miles. (I guess I figured everyone knows winter comes earlier in the mountains…)
But 3 out of 3 of my first readers of those first chapters didn’t buy the snowstorm to get to the claim matching up with the nice fall weather once they got there… (palm to face). The magic was completely believable, but the reality based weather broke the suspension of disbelief… I’ve made some revisions to emphasize the elevation/weather connection… time will tell if I managed to delicately fix the issue or not…
Thanks for another great blog, Jami. 🙂
Great example! Yes, things that we take for granted–either because of our direct experience or because we know our story and characters–are some of the trickiest elements to find the right balance for. I think your fix of explaining the elevation/weather connection is the best route. Good luck and thanks for sharing! 🙂
I can relate to that. I have a character based completely on people I have known, and her dialogue and experiences come from those people as well. Not just a few – dozens over twenty years, people in the same job, same age, same life experience “category.” But I was skewered by one beta reader who happened to be that age but yet had completely different life experience – she said that no one that age would ever think or speak that way, or be in the situations I described. :::shrug:::
Yes, the subjective nature of life–and reading preferences–means that we won’t ever be able to satisfy or appeal to everyone. All we can do is tell our story the best we can. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
As you know, Jami, I face this issue ALL THE TIME in my niche, and the tricky part for getting beta-readers for my work is finding a mix of readers who get my genre, and nuanced it CAN be and those not as familiar but will offer valid advice. One the biggest problems authors who write non-natrualistic animal stories face is that we’re not 100% nonsensical but we’re also not 100% naturalistic with our nonhuman characters, either, and I try REALLY hard to established that in the context of the STORY’S WORLD (which isn’t always one to one with the world as we know it, even if it’s set there) this is what my characters do and anyone acting outside the confines of that world has a purpose and the appropriate consequences. But as you touch on in your post, as much as we don’t want to bog the story down with densely written explanations of every little thing, being vague about it gives the impression we don’t know the answer ourselves, and for the sake of argument let’s say we do know, but the reader thinks otherwise because they don’t know what we know as the writer, and for me I’m so detail-oriented that I don’t always know to when to pair it down and still be specific. But I’m coming to accept that I simply write in a highly detailed (and not always concise) way, and have to pair it back as needed, because if I try too… — Read More »
Yes, that’s a great way to put it. We have to do a good enough job establishing the story world so readers are able to better suspend their disbelief for the remainder. And as you noted, that balance between not enough and too much is never easy.
Thanks for sharing your examples! Yes, as you said, I think that balance we want is really about being intrigued and not confused. Unfortunately, that line may lie in different places for different readers. Sometimes, when I get feedback that I think they should have gotten (because the information is there), I’ll look to make sure the explanation is clear enough. Other times, I’ll emphasize the explanation a bit more, maybe another phrase or sentence.
I’m happy to make those kinds of changes, but it’s crazy-making when beta readers give feedback saying they want to know the answer to a story question, and I’m like, “It’s a story question. Let me show you the answer through the story and not just tell you the answer right now.” LOL!
And yes, I agree that the medium does affect the message. That’s a great example about book-to-movie adaptations too. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
But how do you react when they complain that things aren’t explained or made clear, etc, when you have specifically stated it, word for word, in the text? I had a lot of things in my first draft that I kept as subtext. My first beta reader only found one thing confusing, so I made it more clear. My second beta reader found almost everything confusing. I added new, not-quite-omniscient characters who add comic commentary and explain things. Despite that, the most recent critique I got still said that they didn’t understand things which were both stated in the text AND followed up by explanations from the peanut gallery. I have accepted that I have a small target audience, but really?? How much do I have to dumb down my book? And dumbing it down added 30k words and slowed the pace significantly, though two other beta readers love the peanut gallery. 🙂
Also, I gave up trying to have a suspense plot through the series. I just explained that all at the beginning of the book – and yet, that last critique also said they didn’t understand that plot line, which is the thread that will follow through the entire series… sigh.
That’s a great question and one I’ve thought about doing a whole post about. 🙂 I’ve seen the advice for “Resist the Urge to Explain” (RUE) and “trust your reader,” but I’ve seen more evidence that the exceptions to that advice are many. Quite likely too many exceptions to consider those true guidelines anymore.
Personally, I’ve decided that goals and motivations need to be explicitly stated. They don’t work in subtext at all. And for POV characters, they’re allowed to hide from the other characters, but they’re not allowed to hide from the reader (unless they’re actually unaware or an unreliable narrator, etc.). In other words, the reader should know their innermost thoughts, vulnerabilities, longings, etc.
But yeah, it’s really tricky and that’s one line I really struggled with. One thing that helped me was writing a deeper POV so I had a better (and more consistent) sense of how they would think of the situation. I hope that helps! Thanks for the comment!
I always enjoy your insightful posts and this one is certainly a must read for authors especially those diverging from the contemporary genre like me for instance. I’m writing a romance taking place in the post Vedic period in ancient India and can relate to many of the issues you have raised. Since people spoke Sanskrit at that time, I found it difficult to find the tone of their conversation in English. However my beta reader friends helped out a lot. Phrases like ‘plant one on the nose’ had to go 🙂 I also toned down the heroine’s tendency to call the hero by his first name and provide an explanation if she did as a friend pointed formality existing in those days. However I have taken certain liberties with customs as I wanted to make my characters more than just puppets of convention. Let’s see if that works. Will know when it is released 🙂 Thanks again for the post. It certainly helps to have a check list!
Ooo, great example! A friend of mine is writing a medieval story, and that’s the same situation with trying to find a balance between the real language and the language that works for readers. As you discovered, the issue comes down to word choice, turns of phrase/cliches, syntax, formality, etc. Good luck and thanks for the comment! 🙂
Believability is a very subjective thing though. What one believes another won’t, and how believable something is can also change. Being too timid with our stories is probably as bad as being too extreme.
My latest book is a metaphysical thriller about a reviewer being hounded by a disgruntled author. I thought my original idea was a little too outlandish, so I made it more believable. Then, about a month before publication, I read about that author who physically attacked a reviewer. That made the previously unbelievable believable, so I rewrote the ending using my original idea. The interesting thing is that the book is much better with the more outlandish ending, and I realised that I should have written it that way anyway and not worried whether people would think it believable or not. But I’m not saying to ignore Jami’s good advice; no, I agree with her totally – I hate unbelievable plots and character interactions.
My challenge was to write it in such a way that it was believable for this character at this point in time. So far no one has suggested that it’s not, but I wonder if they might have had it been published a few years ago.
Absolutely! I just mentioned in another comment that everyone’s line of intrigue vs. confusion is different, and the same goes for believability. We all have had different experiences, so that makes what we think of as realistic a bit different too.
I think the best we can do is try our best for a good balance, explain where it would help, and remember that no book is going to appeal to all readers. (I think I mentioned in the post that some readers don’t like fantastical stories at all!) As you said, a lot comes down to establishing this character and this story world, and “selling” the reader on what will make sense for those specifics. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
[…] Ask Jami: How Can We Make a Story Believable? | Jami Gold, Paranormal Author. […]
Lol! Of course story writing is no easy task! Otherwise it wouldn’t be as fun! I realize more and more nowadays that art isn’t fun if it’s too easy, haha. (I’m really sorry Jami that this comment is going to be quite long too…Because there’s too much I want to say about this topic! :O) ” Furthermore, within each of the genres, there’s variety based on tone, mood, setting, etc. A spy thriller could be based in U.S. Revolutionary War days and be light but serious, or a spy thriller could be based in contemporary Japan and be dark but funny. Each of those variations will change the suspension of disbelief necessary, as well as the line for plausible and believable. ” Hmm could you elaborate on what you mean by a story feeling unbelievable if it has the “wrong/ unexpected” tone? Also, readers might think something is unbelievable because it doesn’t match genre expectations? :O Isn’t that about violating expectations, rather than about believability? Coincidences: Lol, but what if a character remarks that there are too many coincidences that it’s ridiculous? And maybe some other characters think there are too many coincidences that it’s so uncanny as well? As in it’s a lamp shading? 😀 Lol. I imagine that this might be acceptable in a comedy or in a funny/ unserious moment that is SUPPOSED to be absurd in some way. But I don’t know about more serious scenes? LOL that lots of coincidences to screw up the character’s… — Read More »
Hi Serena, True! And if it was easy, everyone would do it and writing would be even less valued. :/ Hmm, a tone could seem unbelievable if it changes midway in a jarring, take-the-reader-out-of-the-story way. But what I meant is that some tones or moods are more accepting of farce or ridiculous situations than others. For example, a situation that’s seen as too convenient in a straight romance might be acceptable in a romantic comedy, where silly pratfalls are the norm for a “meet cute.” In some genres, those differences in tone will merit a separate subgenre, and we could just as easily speak of violations of genre expectations. But other genres don’t separate into subgenres as much, so their tone or mood is just their tone or mood. That’s why I wanted to point out that it wasn’t just a genre thing. Good point about lampshades and coincidences. 🙂 I’ve seen coincidences in serious stories handled by pointed them out and ascribing behind-the-scenes players, usually nefarious, to the oddities. For example, I finally got to see Mockingjay this past weekend, and near the end, they hang a lampshade on the fact that that the Capital let the team escape with Peeta and the other victors. They leave that open as a question of “why would the Capital do that?” Cut to the scene with Katniss seeing the rescued Peeta for the first time and her, uh, breathing problem. 😉 Good point too that too many negative consequences can seem… — Read More »
Wow people don’t value writing? O_O. I thought writers get a lot of respect, haha, or maybe it’s just the people I happened to talk to… LOL her breathing problem! I didn’t realize that was a lampshade, but it was indeed, and it worked well. 😀 Oh good, I write romantic comedy, so ridiculous things (silly stuff) are more acceptable in my genre, lol. But then if you don’t see anything ridiculous, then it’s not funny (not comical), right? Haha Killed by a falling satellite… :O Omg that was a comedy/ farce, right? Though I don’t think killing off so many girls in ridiculous ways is “funny”… For the forced happy ending one, thankfully there was another romance in this story between two minor characters which was very nice and more convincing. It was one of those haters to lovers stories, very cute and very sweet. ^^ The relationship between an already married couple in this same story was pretty touching too. I didn’t like the romance with the protagonist in that story, though, because it was a sad love triangle between the hero and two girls (who are sisters). One of the sisters dies in the end, but her funeral was the last scene in the book. So it wasn’t QUITE a happy ending story…Just happy for some characters but not for others. :O Oh man I hope my plots are not too convoluted (maybe they are, lol), and if they are, hopefully it all flows and makes sense… — Read More »
Many people respect writers, but the same people who think nothing of spending $3.99 for a birthday card they’re just going to shove into an envelope balk at spending that much for a book that will give them hours of enjoyment. 🙁
Yes, Northern Exposure was a wacky kind of comedy. Otherwise, you’re right that killing people off wouldn’t be funny. 🙂
It’s funny that you mention the danger of being a pantser. Plotters can come up with great ideas in the outline, but there’s still the question of whether they can sell the story and make it flow. So there are risks on both sides.
Ha! Many romance series are built on giving that jilted lover or victim of unrequited love a happy ending in the next book. 😉 So there are always ways to dig ourselves out of corner. LOL! Thanks for the comment!
Lol, unfortunately, for that guy and some other unrequited lovers in my story, they’ll never get a happy ending (at least not romance wise.) 🙁 I’m not fond of tragedies, but I guess I’m okay if it’s just somewhat sad but not crushingly sad, and as long as the PROTAGONISTS get a happily ever after, I’m fine, haha!
Oh that’s true. Actually despite what I just said, I think I would be better at tying things up and making them flow with pantsing, but not with plotting. I mean, I can’t even plot anyway! Haha.
True too that many people respect writers but not many are willing to buy books. And even fewer are willing to READ books, and even fewer are willing to FINISH those books they start reading! :O Nevertheless, we’ll think about the people who ARE willing to read and finish our work; can’t let anything discourage us!
Yep, and that’s why I know pantsing is for me. When I plot, everything turns out too forced–not good. LOL! Thanks for the comment!
This was a wonderful, helpful post, Jami. You actually helped me solve a problem I’ve been having in a current story. Specifically, your point about forcing Too Stupid To Live (TSTL) actions. I couldn’t figure out why a character would stay in a place (another world) that posed a threat to her if she had the option to go home. Then I realized that I had to take that option off the table, and I had the perfect way to do that without breaking the rules of the world. Thank you!
Great insights! Yes, beta readers, critique partners, or developmental editors are essential for finding those “Why couldn’t they just do…?” problems. 🙂
As you said, we have to take that option off the table in some way. We could make the stakes (consequences) too high if they don’t follow through, or we could make the option impossible, etc., etc. And great point about how whatever we do has to make sense for the story and the story world. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
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