Thursday, September 16, 2010
As fiction writers, we have far greater latitude on this particular point than our fellow nonfiction writers who must stick to “just the facts, ma’am.” Rather than simply confining ourselves to the basic relaying of information like a police blotter (the event occurred at 1:00 p.m. on 123 Main Street), we have the license to create entire universes for our characters to play in, for their lives to unfold in.
However, when creating a brand new world, as a writer you must make the rules and norms of this foreign land familiar to your reader. If all the residents of Land Xulu are purple, for example, then you must show your reader this fact and reinforce it often enough so that Xulu soon becomes equated with blueberry-tinted folks in the reader’s mind. Ultimately, the imaginary world that you have created should be very much real in the mind’s eye of your reader. If you cannot achieve this from the outset, you lose credibility – and ultimately, your reader will be less likely to follow you into the land of make believe. The technical term for this is the suspension of disbelief. When you create a new universe with unique facts and laws of nature, a place that would not otherwise exist in reality, then your reader must pause, set down their preconceived notion of what is and what is not possible, then follow you as you guide them on this voyage.