Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Believe It or Not

The suspension of disbelief . I’ve been wrestling with idea lately because the manuscript I’m working on now, asks readers to follow my characters into a future Seattle with flying insect cameras, underground labyrinths and strange uses for nano technology. How much is too much?
As usual I resort to a discussion with Sci/Fi guy and Screenwriter over food. We decide, over plates of Pad Thai, that there are three types of improbable events on the SOD (Suspension of Disbelief) scale…1) the extraordinary situation.  Sci/Fi guy “An example of that is in the last Star Wars prequel when they had a 3-minute fight scene on a rock floating in molten lava.” 2)  The contrived invention: time machine, reverse polarity generator, time warp DeLorean and 3) fortuitous luck, deus ex machina, the unsolvable solved by a contrived intervention: the sun hits the rock and reveals the keyhole, crack, entry point.

Any of those three improbabilities have the potential to knock the reader right out of the book. So how do we keep our readers engaged in the midst of the fantastic? I’ve always believed that if you create a compelling character and a voice that readers love, they will follow that character anywhere, a dystopian future or the lion’s den. But you also need to ground that voice in the familiar.
And Sci/Fi guy and Screenwriter both agree. This is an amazing event. I pause with a forkful of noodles to savor the moment. Then Screenwriter shares what he found on Michael Hauge’s website below: 

Your audience is eager to embrace fantastic, faraway worlds, bigger than life characters and startling events, but only if your characters react to them the way people in the real world would.You can throw an everyday hero into an extraordinary situation, but she must then overcome whatever conflicts she faces in ways that an everyday person could. And if she has to call on some added talent to save the day, you must reveal that talent (or ally or weapon or knowledge or magic wand) early in the story, long before it’s needed. You can even give your hero super powers, but we have to see how she got them, and they must be limited in some way to make her vulnerable.”
The key is remembering that readers want to be taken on a journey, and we are the guides to there and back again.  This seems like a good time to break for black rice pudding.

1 comment:

Jordan Dane said...

Well said. I completely agree. In the latest trend toward YA mashups, another foundational element that keeps readers engaged is romance, especially a forbidden love. Nice post, Maureen.