Making The Unbelievable Believable
Today, I feel like writing a rant. Just to get something off my mind that annoys me. Skip this post if you’re looking for a thoughtful review.
Yesterday night, when I was reading Stray by Rachel Vincent, I was mentally slapping my forehead at how oblivious this heroine could be. Yes, you have to attend every council meeting since you were a mere ten years old, yet it never occurred to you that one day, you might were supposed to actually be in said council? Then, when I started to think about it, there were quite some more things that don’t make sense. Main character Faythe (I quite like her name by the way) starts the book with saying goodbye to Mr. Human Boyfriend. She comes home and within two or three chapters she ends up with Mr. Childhood Friend on top of her (no, not having sex, but still, not in a platonic way). And nowhere, in the entire dissertation of her feelings, not one single thought is directed at Mr. Human Boyfriend she left behind. And as far as he knows, they’re still together. Weird. I wonder if Mr. Human Boyfriend will show up somewhere or somehow in the rest of the book.
And this is not a problem that I have with only this book. I only use Stray as an example of how there are inconsistencies in so many books. Maybe some of those are intentional, but I’m sure not all of them are. And I can certainly understand that, as a writer, you’ve seen countless versions of your book, and maybe in one of those versions there was a Mr. Human Boyfriend that made sense, and in another you didn’t really like him anyway so you removed him again, but I can’t see why no one (like an editor or proof reader) asked Ms. Vincent, “Hey, what’s up with that human dude?”. There are countless examples where characters are suddenly (conveniently?) forgotten, then after some time come back again with no logical explanation what happened with them in the mean while. Even if there are werewolves and vampires and demons in your book, I want to believe your story. I want to feel like the actions of your characters make sense in your world. And yes, I’m a person that zooms in on every little detail that you write. If you bring up a Mr. Human Boyfriend, I want to know what happens to him, or at least have his apparently not so faithful girlfriend remember him once in a while.
Then, a common problem in fantasy genres, the gaps in world building. Often, authors try to be original and implement certain new things into the standard fantasy world to make it stand out. More often than not, this works, readers are surprised, and everyone is happy. The downside of this is that you’re creating new lore. And with new lore, we need explanations. Why do your werewolves sparkle? An easy way out is to say hey, well, no body knows why we sparkle, but we think it looks pretty so we stick with it. Okay, so they don’t know, then I will be fine with that, because in a way that makes sense. There are also those brave authors that venture into explanation-land and, well, fail. To illustrate this I want to take a very well-known book called Breaking Dawn (spoilers ahead for the 3 people on this world that haven’t heard about it yet). We hear a lot about how these vampires are marble-like creatures. They feel like marble, they make marble sounds, the colour of marble, you name it. They don’t have bodily fluids. They’re not living things, so I accept all this ’cause it sounds pretty plausible. Now comes the fun part. When Mr. Vampire has sex with Ms. Human, they get a baby. Wait, what? Yes. As everything is marble, I guess having sex is possible. But ehh.. Ms. Author, you know babies aren’t brought by the stork, right? You really need some kind of bodily fluids for that. I would love to hear you explain that.
My point is, readers aren’t stupid. You can’t fool us all. When you write a story, please make sure your story makes sense. Just keep away from those abyssal holes in logic. And I guess not every plot is perfect, but sometimes I get tired of seeing those inconsistencies.
End of ranting.
Note: this is not a personal attack on any of the authors mentioned. This isn’t an attack on authors in general, because I know that if you stand so close to your story you probably miss a lot of things. This also isn’t a review on what I think about the book Stray, I’m actually quite enjoying it, apart from my little irritations. And I really respect you if you read through that whole thing.