Monday, October 31, 2011

Plausibility


Weird things happen. I get that.
Image by skyloader
We all have things in our lives that seem so implausible, it's ridiculous. Take, for example, my sad little car with mismatched headlights. It has been:
  • Plowed down a hill by an old lady
  • Filled with confetti
  • Toilet-papered
  • Covered in balloons and plastic wrap
  • Written all over
  • Duct-taped/Wired together
  • Home to (uninvited) snakes 
  • Home to a wasps' nest
  • An indoor pool, whenever it rains
  • On fire
Now, here's the thing: if any three of those happened in a book, I'd probably pitch the thing across the room. No one wants to read about a series of random obstacles being thrown at a character. We want the things that happen to shape our stories. We want them to have meaning and push things forward.

When we just toss things in for humor or shock value, we're weakening the things that do matter. Not only is it a disservice to our writing, but it's an insult to the reader. We're wasting their time.

<Deep breath>

That said, I don't think we should play it safe with our plotlines, either.

But you said...

Weird things happen. I mean, my hometown was overrun with exotic animals two weeks ago. I'm sure, given the right circumstances, something like that would make for great writing material/inspirationas long as it's pertinent. That's the keyword. Pertinent. There has to be a relevant reason for it, even if it's not made clear until the end. :)

So, what things in your life seem implausible?

P.S. Thanks for the award, Cassie Mae! :)

28 comments:

Adam Collings said...

Good point. Pertinence is the key. I think this is especially importing in any form of sci-fi or fantasy, where we are already asking the reader to suspend disbelief.

Patrick said...

I totally understand the car catching on fire thing... It's funny when I have those implausible events happen to me I always think it would be something that would happen in a book or a movie.

Experiencing an implausible event always seems surreal to me. Like that fifteen second earth quake.

Awesome post! This is a great point.

P.S. You should give your car a hug.

Dave said...

Mine was crushed into a 3x3 block with me still in it. Top that, sis.

Carrie Butler said...

@Adam - You make a great point about pertinence, as it relates to genres already asking the reader to suspend disbelief. Very true. Thank you for stopping by! :)

@Patrick - I think surreal is a great way to describe those events. :) Thank you!

@Dave - Come on. No one can compete with the Lightning Rod. ;)

The Golden Eagle said...

Great point!

Compared to a couple of years ago, the idea that I have a blog is pretty implausible.

Iain said...

It's probably quicker to list the plausible things :o)
It's a good point, well made. One that I'll keep in mind in my next revision session.

Linda said...

I'm all about surrealism. I mean, my blog is called Surrealistic Fiction, after all. One thing I think is important is to have a point, I guess. If something weird happens, then it needs to relate to the plot/characters and not just thrown in to take up space.

That poor car sounds like it's been through the ringer! I've had so many weird things happen to me, it's not even funny. Truth really is stranger than fiction, in my life at least. I'll give a quick example: last year my boyfriend opened up one of my reference books and found a dead butterfly inside, perfectly pressed and folded. Neither of us had any memory of ever seeing it or putting it there. Weird.

Joylene said...

I don't look out at the lake as often as I should. Today, I got up from my computer and stood l at the dining room window. I was marvelling on how beautiful it is here when I caught sight of an eagle coming near. As if a feather on the wind, he floated past slowly, his wing span over 5'. Our eyes locked for a full 3 seconds. I swear, it felt as if he were thinking "Good day, Mrs. B". I know the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Angela Ackerman said...

You know what they say--real life is stranger than fiction! I think your car has 9 lives, lol!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

JeffO said...

Hmm, can't think of anything when the pressure is on!

Lindsay N. Currie said...

So true! There's no reason not to spice up storylines if the added material is pertinent - even if it is a little, uh...wacky:) Um, so strange things happening to us. Last year we took our kids for a fancy night out downtown and got onto an elevator in the hotel only to be greeted by Ozzy Osbourne. That was weird. Not sure I'd ever put it in a MS but...it was definitely weird.

Lisa L. Regan said...

Where to start . . .

LOL.

Great post. So true!

J. A. Bennett said...

Your poor car! Do you have friends that like to play tricks? The impossible thing in my life? I can't think of anything except maybe my entire families crazy unicycle abilities (that doesn't include me) yeah, they ride unicycles like a mountain biker would bike. crazy, huh?

MISH said...

I like the message... implausibility (in moderation, I would imagine)within the context of pertinence...
Mmmm... something to think about & digest...

Laila Knight said...

Very interesting. Well, aside form massive flooding in Omaha and the UFO sightings there's nothing much going on here. I still think your animal dilemma was pretty cool, Care Bear. :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

Isn't there a quote that goes, "The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to be believable"?

I remember when we first moved here, our neighbors across the street rented a whole herd of goats to eat up the weeds in their front yard. Imagine my surprise when I looked out the window and saw about thirty goats milling around! I had no idea what was going on at the time, because I didn't know you could rent goats. I told my husband when he got home and he refused to believe it - he thought I was pulling his leg.

Lynda R Young said...

You could write a story about your little car alone! My goodness it's seen a LOT!

Lydia Kang said...

So true. For a while, I was making fake cliffhangers--you know, when thing seem really dangerous but then you find out in the next chapter it's not. Got rid of that bad habit fast.

Clarissa Draper said...

Sometimes I look at my life and wonder how any of it's plausible. I live in a foreign country and can't speak hardly any of the language. I'm a writer...with a book being published. Sometimes I wonder if it's all dream. However, I totally get your meaning.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Wonderful point - sometimes random things happen, but it doesn't make it valuable to a story. :) Although sometimes it can be done really well, if it relates in the end. :)

Trisha Leaver said...

Well first off -- I think you need a new car. As for random things happening in a book, I am of the philosophy that everything needs to be grounded, related to the past present AND future of your character or else it doesn't work.

Carrie Butler said...

@Eagle - Thanks! Me too. *grins*

@Iain - Hah! That might be true. Thank you!

@Linda - Whaaaaaaat? A dead butterfly? I would spaz out. Ack! I'm freaking out, just thinking about it. *shudder*

@Joylene - Oh, wow! That's so cool, Joylene. I wish I could've seen it. :)

@Angela - Hah! You know, I think you're right. ;)

@Jeff - You have enough pressure as it is, Mr.NaNoEverythingMo!

@Lindsay - Whoa! Ozzy Osbourne? Now that is a crazy, implausible memory!

@Lisa - *grins* Thank you!

@J.A. Bennett - My poor car, indeed! Sometimes, when I'm lucky, it still starts. (Ah, the glamorous life of a writer...) Yeah, the confetti, balloons, writing, toliet paper, and plastic wrap were courtesy of friends. Whoa! Unicycle abilities? That's awesome!

@Mish - I'm still trying to digest it, too. Sometimes I have to blog about things to remind myself. :) Thanks for stopping by!

@Laila - Eep! Flooding and aliens? That seems like a lot, to me! Don't worry. The next time we have any kind of bizarre animal-happenings, you'll be the first person I call. ;)

@Jennifer - That's an awesome quote! I'd love to hang that up by my desk. Hah! Goats? Oh, that's fantastic. I can only imagine the look on your face. No wonder your husband refused to believe it. That's crazy! :)

@Lynda - It has! It's like The Little Engine that Could! Except, you know, it's a car... :)

@Lydia - I think we're all guilty of starting with that habit. We want to build intensity, before we have the conflict to support it. :)

@Clarissa - Wow! If that's a dream, it's a pretty cool one. ;)

@Bethany - Exactly! Thank you. :)

@Tricia - I think so too. It's sad. ;) That's a great philosophy. (Though, it's a lot harder to see in my own work!)

Nancy Thompson said...

Ha! I've cheated death about 5 times already and I'm not a reckless, risk-taking person. I've just had shit happen to me by chance (angry sexual deviants, car wrecks, wild fires, earthquakes, and a crazy Russian dude with a vendetta) and somehow managed to survive. I figure I've got a pretty good guardian angel working overtime.

You're right though. Those events in a story have to be plausible, even more so than real life.

And Jennifer's right. Here in Seattle, where thorny blackberries grow like 3 feet a day year-round, we see goats for hire all over the place. It's a uniquely PNW thing, I think.

Jessica Therrien said...

I loved this post! Such a good point. Definitely something to keep in mind when you go through that first edit and start hacking...crazy all the things that have happened to your car lol!!

Jenny S. Morris said...

Where do you live, that exotic animals overrun your hometown? I want to live there! Lol. I'm always the one in a movie going, um that totally wouldn't happen. But, I have other things, like my favorite show, where I don't care if it could happen, it's just too cool.

Tara Tyler said...

great advice, horrible luck, wonderful memories =)
how crazy! i had some adventures in my first car, but not that extreme!

Melodie Wright said...

Holy cow, what are you doing to that poor car? Wait...at least you don't list puke-filled, apple-juice stained, evil-looking ooze leaking between your seats.
And it's completely implausible that I'm as old as I am already. I was nine like, yesterday.

Carrie Butler said...

@Nancy - Geez, woman! That's crazy. I can't even imagine. You know, I think you're right about the guardian angel thing!

Really? That's so cool! I wish we had rent-a-goats around here... :)

@Jessica - Thank you! (As if we needed another reason to hack, right? *grins) Yeah, it's had a very strange life!

@Jenny - Ohio. Did you hear about this (link) a few weeks ago? Madness!

Oh, yes. If we love something enough, we can overlook anything! :)

@Tara - Thank you! Hah! I guess I'm just (un)lucky that way. *grins*

@Melodie - I swear, none of it was my fault! As for the puke and apple juice, well, I guess I'm exempt from that. If I have kids someday, I'm sure it'll be a different story. :P

Oh Melodie, don't be silly. You're not old. :)