1. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Balance between drama and realism?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Shbooblie, Jan 9, 2016.

    So this isn't necessary specific to my story but could be applied to any story taking place in the "real world."

    I've had a few ideas which I thought might make the story more interesting but consequently scrapped them for being too farfetched. I know it's fiction and the reader knows it's fiction, but I'm trying to write from my MCs perspective (he is adamant that it is a true story but has to write it as fiction to avoid being captured).

    How do I achieve the right balance between entertaining, believable and realistic? How do you achieve this in your own work (if realism is an important feature)?
     
  2. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Stephen King does this constantly. I never used to read sci-fi, horror or fantasy because it was "too absurd" but once I started reading his work I ate it up. The quality of the storytelling is what makes it believable.

    Not everyone will read or want to read your work simply because it won't appeal to them. I never read vampire stories, no matter how good they are, because I just think the idea is silly. And I've read about half of Stephen King's works. I 'bought' the stories of The Shining, Carrie, Cujo and some others but absolutely couldn't wrap my head around "It" and never finished it. Harry Potter bores me to tears but I loved The Hunger Games, both of which are absurd and unrealistic. It will simply be a matter of taste. Write what you want/what interests you and do it well. Your readers will find you.
     
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I think motivations have to be consistent. If they're not - if someone acts 'out of character' - then it will be obvious that you've shoehorned the plot point in to create drama. But if the motivations make sense, and the events don't rely on coincidence or deus-ex-machine or whatever, you're probably okay. Readers are generally willing to suspend belief a little when reading fiction, because nobody wants to read about Jane Doe who has the same kind of boring, mundane life that most real people do.
     
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  4. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Thanks guys. Interesting that you mentioned vampires @ddavidv as my MC kinda, sorta is one ( I do realize a "realistic vampire story" is something of an oxymoron - but i'll attempt it anyway, just cause I like a good vampire story). I know what you mean about "too absurd" though, I don't really care for most sci-fi because certain elements don't sit well with me, like sentient robots, or space travel. I tried watching the movie Inception one time and I was like "They go into people's dreams - that's stupid, that would never work" and I turned it off, much to my boyfriends dismay. I know people will have their own individual limits of what passes for believable or not, I just want to minimize the amount of people who go "No way that would happen" and slam the book shut (If indeed it makes it that far even).

    @Tenderiser, I think that I have a pretty good grasp of my characters personalities and behaviours they might display in different situations. I'm glad you mentioned coincidence and deus-ex machina, as that's the kind of thing I'm trying to avoid. Some of the ideas I had were a bit too coincidental which is why I left them out (for instance my MC was going to commit suicide but his gun would jam the moment before he heard a loud bang on his door, which would introduce the SC), the difficulty with this for me is that the first version is more dramatic than the revised version, but the revised version is a lot easier to pass off as a "true event" for the purposes of the story. I need people to suspend disbelief (he's a vampire after all) but I want everything to have a logical, basis for occurring within the parameters I've set for myself.

    A lot of that above ^ is just thinking out loud but thank you so much because you've started me on the right path :)
     
  5. datahound2u
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    datahound2u Member

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    Sometime, I think, there is a fine - yet utterly important - line between believable and non believable. For instance, in your example here:
    I think you could achieve the same effect, yet be more believable, if the knock on the door came just as the MC was applying pressure to the trigger.

    I read mostly adventure stuff, and some authors really push that boundary between believable and not. However, as @ddavidv said, it's "the quality of the storytelling" that determines which side of the believability line the reader decides on.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think, no matter what kind of story you're writing ...fantasy or otherwise ...that a lack of believability often comes from a story problem being solved too easily. If some miracle always pops out of the woodwork to save the day, then you're probably stretching credibility. If it's absolutely vital for a character to be in a certain place at a certain time for your plot to click into place, make sure you've taken the time and effort to make that character's appearance believable at that moment. Don't just have them 'turn up.' If a problem is difficult for a character to solve, MAKE it difficult for them. Don't come up with some too-easy solution that puts the pieces in place without any real effort.
     
  7. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's worth noting that readers are more much more likely to ignore coincidences if they hinder--rather than help--the main character's goals. As @jannert said, readers want the MC to work for their goals, so coincidences make it seem that the struggle is less meaningful when luck ends up being the key determinant. However, if the coincidences make it more difficult for the MC, it will only add to the struggles the MC will have to go through to reach their goal.
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But are the events actually fictional or not, according to the story?

    For example, if the events are fictional even according to the story, then it makes sense the events might be far-fetched - they're not supposed to be believable. But you must make sure the deluded MC comes across as deluded, that the reader knows that the narrator has no idea what's fact and what's fiction. This would be an example of the unreliable narrator, I believe. Of course this device could be used even if some of the events are true and others are delusions - the fun is in having the reader figure out which is which. But you gotta be a really damned skilled writer to pull it off so it doesn't look like you're just making no sense or have forgotten what you wrote :ohno: lol

    Do you want the reader to believe your narrator?

    But in terms of regular novels where you follow the MC as things happen - yeah, things have to make sense. I think part of it boils down to the author - if even you think it's far-fetched, then how do you hope to write it in a way where the reader's gonna find it believable? You can't.

    And the rest, I guess it's just plain ol' common sense really :) Would the character really behave like this? Do real humans in real life behave this way? If somehow your character's behaviour goes against what's generally assumed to be the "normal" reaction, have you established a believable reason as to why that is, whether it's because of the fictional world's culture, a deluded mind, or otherwise? And is the reader clear on the rationale behind this? As long as things make sense within the construct of your story/world, readers will generally accept most things.
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that's a corollary to the old adage: Coincidence is fine to begin a story, but it's not a good idea to end it with one.
     
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  10. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    Everyone has been so helpful, thank you so much. The events in the story are 100% "the truth", that is he is reporting his life as it has happened in his world.
    I want the readers to buy into his story, however he says himself that it may be a bit hard to at times (particularly with elements relating to his "condition"). I think the majority of events in my story involving an element of coincidence (not that there are many) put the characters in a really bad position and make their goals harder to achieve. I don't think there's really anything in there where a coincidence solves a problem or makes their lives any easier.

    The thing that is hard for me is that when I'm writing, this guy is in my head telling me his life story so to me I'm buying it because I'm thinking "sure why could that not happen, stranger things have happened in real life", but to someone who doesn't know the character, I have no idea how it comes across to them. I guess that's where my writing skills will be truly be tested, I do find writing a lot easier than coming up with plot ideas though I must be honest.
     
  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure if this has been said already, and it's not so much advice on "what is too absurd," but on the subject of absurdity in worldbuiliding generally:

    If you have absurd/ridiculous elements in your worldbuilding, that's fine, but you and your characters have to take them DEAD SERIOUSLY.

    We know that in our world, it is absurd to think about a flat world that is literally held up by four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle. However, to all of the characters in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, that's reality. Not only is it not absurd to them, but the physics of it are very important. If an elephant gets a cough - that's NOT something to laugh at, especially if you're near the end of the world...people could DIE.

    A lot of the best comic book movie/TV shows do this too. Supergirl gets a lot of plaudits and I think part of it has to do with the fact that they don't try to restrain the campy and unrealistic aspects of the Superman mythology in the way a lot of "gritty reboots" do. Supergirl looks like - well - Supergirl. She wears a totally impractical fire-engine red skirt and cape. Her hair is long, perfect blonde curls - and her hair is better styled as Supergirl than as her mild mannered alter-ego. There is NOTHING realistic about her. However, the reason that works is that, instead of trying to lower the suspension-of-disbelief threshold for the audience, they just take all of the absurdity inherent in Supergirl's character, then examine the emotional impact that would have on someone if it were real...and you get stuff like this:



    Nothing about the world has any realism - and frankly it doesn't try. The realism is in the examination of the mental state of Supergirl - who if you think about it would have some SERIOUS issues. So, taking ridiculous things seriously can go a long way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
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