Verisimilitude in Fiction- The Writing Experience Part 1

She wanted to build an old home. And upon the arrival in that home, every door and step would ignite a forgotten memory in the reader’s mind, a feeling of déjà vu.

From “An Old House” from Chapter 11 of The Death of Ink

In writing The Death of Ink, I wanted to write about and for a specific group of people. The main character and protagonist are teens who read and write. I wanted to speak to the experience of  writers who  are young adults. So far from just being antisocial nerds (and there’s nothing wrong with that), teen writers and readers come in a wide-range of personalities. I wanted to create something that spoke to that existence. Something familiar.

You know the experience, in real life and in the pages of a book. You read something and think “I thought I was the only one who felt that way!” or “That’s sooo true!” Reactions like these are what writers should aim for. It is way more important than how you phrase a sentence, grammar, creating a dramatic opening, or the tens of thousands of other ‘rules’ spewed ad nauseous from writing consultants who swear they have bestselling books (although neither you or your neighbor ever heard of them).  #shade

To be clear, I’m not saying not to care about these things, but what would put me off in a book more than a poorly phrased sentence is the sensation that I’m being bullshitted. An author who insults my intelligence is like a slap in the face. And I am not talking about poorly researched bits (although those can be irritating) but when the greater elements (like as character thoughts, reactions, and relationships) doesn’t ring true to me.

Example: When two people in a book that hate each other’s guts suddenly fall in love. I am sure two people who hate each other can learn to love. But realistically, personalities don’t change quickly. If the person was behaving in a way that annoyed you before, even if you looked beyond that and fell in love, that behavior will still annoy you after the fact. I don’t expect everything to be perfect. A lot of romance novels, even the cliché ones, would be great if they just showed relationships realistically. It is not a novel’s predictability that kills it, in fact, some readers know what will happen but still continue reading to see how things will unfold. They enjoy the process. It is making things too easy that kills a novel. This does not reflect real life, and as mentioned before, it is creating verisimilitude that matters the most. Creating something familiar.

This applies to genres outside of realistic fiction as well. Everything written has been written from a human perspective. Creatures we imagined were imagined from a human brain. It would only make sense that whether we write with a Homo Sapien, an alien, or a snake as a main character, he/she/ or it still has to bow the knee to the human experience. To make them relatable, they still have to experience emotions and pain that we do. It is impossible by definition to write even a non-human character without human elements, because the writer is human, and the human experience is all the writer has at his or her disposal.

Don’t strive for originality but familiarity in writing your novel. After all, would you rather have dinner with a complete stranger or with a good, old friend?  Would you feel more comfortable in a strange place or at your childhood home (assuming your childhood home was a safe place)? Create an old house for your readers to explore and remember.

The Writing Experience Series

Part of a new series of writing ‘advice’ (if you could call it that. I’m a strong advocate of writer freedom) where I share my experience on fiction writing. I encourage writers and readers alike to leave their comments below. In other news,

Advanced Reader Copies of The Death of Ink are available. If you’re interested in a copy, leave a comment below or email me at mmjohnbooks@gmail.com

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