The definition of fiction the dictionary gives is, “novels or stories in which the characters and incidents are wholly or partly imaginary.” As an author, I write women’s fiction, so what I’m referring to here doesn’t necessarily involve other genres and what I want to discuss is the “believability” of characters and plot.
Where do you get your story ideas, I’m often asked. And your characters, are they real people? My story ideas come from everywhere….snippets of conversation I might overhear, real life stories from the news, anywhere and everywhere. And about my characters being real people…..yes and no. Of course, to me, they’re very real while I’m creating them. Once fully developed, they also come from a multitude of places. That patient I had many years ago when I worked in the Intensive Care Unit, that cashier at a supermarket, a family member no longer here, a stranger I observed in an airport and the list goes on and on.
Which brings us to the question, “What makes a plot or character believable?” The longer I’m an author, the more I’m beginning to think that the answer to this is simply, “Whatever the reader might feel.” In other words, I may read about a character that has me shaking my head and thinking “Would she really have acted or reacted that way?” And another reader, based on her own life experiences, would have no doubt whatsoever that yes, she perfectly understood how and why a character said or did a certain thing.
Which now leads me to talk about truth vs fiction. I believe the reason most of us write fiction is because the sky’s the limit. In other words, we can control and develop plots and characters that might be out of the ordinary, might be a little far-fetched, might not be like anything you or I have ever encountered . . . but, it’s all fiction and as long as the story is coherent, has a beginning, middle and end, it should qualify as such, shouldn’t it?
In my first novel, Spinning Forward, my main character at age fifty-two, discovers her biological mother when she relocates to a small island off the coast of Florida . Far-fetched? Probably. Unbelievable? Maybe. But the truth of it is . . . it actually is not as fictional as one might think. A few months after my novel was released, I happened to see a news clip about two brothers, adopted at birth, that were living in nearby towns, and worked at the same company. Co-workers began to comment how much they resembled each other, which led them to doing some research and yes, they were indeed brothers. Far-fetched? Probably. However, this was not fiction. This was truth.
I recently had an experience in my own life that’s only further proof that there is a very fine line between truth and fiction. I received an email from a stranger in England . . . due to a WWII romance in England that my uncle had (and unbeknownst to the family) I was being contacted, over sixty years later, by my cousin! Unbelievable? Most definitely! But I now have that female cousin that I longed for all of my life and she’s very real.
So as authors, I think we need to pay less attention to what might be considered far-fetched. If you have a good story and you write it well, chances are that your readers will not only accept it, but love it. Don’t let go of those seeds of inspiration. Don’t spend time dwelling on truth vs fiction. Just write!
My newly released book 2 in my Cedar Key Series, Casting About, has to do with a character that is not only unsure of ever wanting children, but as a newlywed, she’s thrust into the position of becoming a step-mom. Is the way I chose to handle her character traits and reaction more truth or fiction? As the author, I can’t help but feel . . . it’s a combination of both, and I think most fiction authors unconsciously cross this line back and forth every time they develop a story.
So don’t let somebody tell you that your story is far-fetched or unbelievable. Do what you do best . . . write! And write from your heart, because this kind of writing always wins out as the truth.