Fixing implausibility issues in your fiction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Fixing implausibility issues in your fiction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #amwriting #writingtips

My first editor, back before I switched genres, gave me some advice about believability issues in my manuscript that I’ll never forget. Now, this advice was passed down to her from a mentor and then down to me, but despite the game of telephone, it still makes a heck of a lot of sense.

When I received my edit letter from the lovely Heather Ezell (who I highly recommend for all your YA editing needs), I saw a familiar comment that I’d been getting from some of my critique partners. A few of my situations weren’t believable. She didn’t believe that my scenes could play out in real life the way I’d written them, wasn’t buying it. I chewed on this criticism, and told her I wasn’t sure what to do, because the events in question actually had played out in a similar way for me in real life.

To paraphrase her thoughtful reply, she wasn’t saying that the situations could never happen, but that within the confines of the context/story and the portrayal of the events/characters, she didn’t believe it yet. She said it’s more about reframing, giving the reader the means to believe.

And that hit me like a light bulb to the thought bubble.

Fixing implausibility issues in your fiction

Let’s take the Jack and Jill example, because it’s something simple enough to workshop in a blog post. We’ve all heard this nursery rhyme innumerable times, but let’s pretend we haven’t. When you read the next paragraph, pull on your critique hat and try to find, if anything, what sticks out for you as not yet believable given the confines of the narrative.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.

To me, I’m not convinced that Jill is as clumsy as Jack. What caused her to fall? Given a teensy bit of additional context, the story will make more sense. (Yes, I realize I’m a terrible poet.)

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and because Jill tried to grab his hand, and she slipped too, she came tumbling after.

OR

(We learn that Jill is prone to fainting in a prior verse.) Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and at the sight of it, Jill swooned, came tumbling after.

There you have it. The next time an editor or critique partner or beta reader says, “I’m not buying it,” before you scrap the scene altogether, try to determine if what you need is to set the scene up with a little more context.

This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.

Thank you to Freepik for the image I used in this post.

Fixing implausibility issues in your fiction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #amwriting #writingtips

65 thoughts on “Fixing implausibility issues in your fiction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

  1. That’s why critique partners are so valuable. They let you know when you’ve left out some detail that’s necessary for the scene to work.

    BTW, thanks for letting me know that my Gravatar wasn’t linking back to my blog. I haven’t fixed it yet, because I can’t find any way to link my current account to a website, but I’m still working on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said! Context is one of the biggest things I struggle with, since I write in fantasy worlds that have been living in my head for 10+ years. Things – sometimes huge things the story is entirely contingent on – are so obvious to ME that I forget to explain them entirely. I’m actually currently doing a rewrite mostly to fix that problem…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post 🙂 Critique partners are invaluable for pointing such things out. I recently had two people read a couple of my short stories and point out things I never realised were issues! When writing fantasy, everything tends to work in my head: It’s the getting it down on paper in a way that makes sense to everyone else that I sometimes struggle with.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! I often notice implausibility issues in writing I critique because I struggle with this issue as well. I often cross the line between subtle hints and totally obscuring important details, and I’ll think about context and what’s necessary to make things more believable. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had some great comments from beta readers pointing out that they don’t believe something. I love that type of comment, because it’s usually easy to fix, and if one reader thought it, more will too. So I listen carefully when I get the unbelievable comment. Great post, Raimey.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this! Just one more thing to think about as we write! Gosh, there are so many. I like the idea of providing more context rather than scrapping the scene. What we need to do, however, is still give the reader room for their imagination. If we tell them too much, it’s no fun reading! Another tricky balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. love this tip. Plausibility is completely within the author’s control. I run into this problem when I try to make my characters do something, rather than letting the characters be in control of their own destinies. Thank for the tip

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s funny how often this type of thing comes up. In college I wrote a story about a character who pulls the cap off of a liquor bottle with his teeth, and everyone in my writing class got up in arms because they had always seen liquor bottles with screw tops. Of course there were ones that had a cork under the cap, but it was far less common.

    It’s funny how things can be true, but people still don’t believe them, and because the story is “fiction”, they feel they have more leeway to question it.

    I think your ideas are spot on. There’s no way that “debating the issue with the audience” will work, but finding small ways to reinforce or establish a precedent are definitely good constructive solutions to feedback like that.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The second paragraph you wrote here, I tried explaining this point to someone recently, but I’m not sure I was successful in communicating my point. I think I said something like, “Yes, fiction is meant to at times mirror real life, but it isn’t real life, it’s augmented reality, and the moment a reader doesn’t believe something, you’re risking them putting your book down.”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Another straightforward and actionable post! Although if Jill is swooning so often she might want to get checked for low blood pressure. 😉 Fixing implausible holes is one of my most instinctive actions in writing. I even do it for bad movies I watch as I watch them, which leads to some interesting post-movie conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is great advice! I love to use “yet” in my classroom, too. “I don’t have a conflict for my story, so I’m not going to finish it.”
    “You haven’t figured it out, yet,” I tell my student. “What would be a logical conflict for a character in the situation you’ve created?”
    That seems to spark something! I know it’s not the same thing, but the concept is similar: don’t scrap it until you’ve tried to fix it! Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great example here, Raimey! I’ve had an editor tell me the scene wasn’t believable in one of my short stories. And like you, I explained that something close to this scene happened to my family while camping at Sequoia National Park. Sometimes real life seems unbelievable in story. But clarifying and adding context helps out many a scene and story. Thanks for all you do, Raimey!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Whenever I tell my clients “I’m not buying it,” I definitely want them to sell it to me, not give up! There’s always a way to sell it. You may have to try a few different tricks before they stick, but if you believe a thing happens a certain way, then all you have to do is convince the reader. And if you believe it already, how hard can it be? (Yeah, I know… hard!)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is great! Sometimes things seem clear when you write it, but the reader doesn’t see it so clearly. I’m currently reworking a manuscript that has a few of these issues, so this is a good reminder not to give up a scene before seeing how you can make it more believable.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I recently received lots of excellent feedback and it’s amazing how different it was from one person to the next. All of it useful in its own way. Writer’s cannot do without it because we cannot see past our own mind, our own ideas. I often write minimally and the reader needs more information to understand fully what’s happening because, well, I know. Lol. Great post, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There’s alelbow rooms a elbow room to sell it. I’m currently reworking a manuscript that has a few of these issues, so this is a honorable monitor not to devote up a shot before seeing how you can ca-ca it more believable.

    Liked by 1 person

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