As a fiction writer, I feel incredibly lucky being able to let my imagination run free. I can stretch the limitations of reality and take my reader on journeys through distant places and times. I create characters and communities and have even conjured up the odd planet or two. But amidst all of this wonderment and fantasy, I do still have a responsibility to my reader: to consciously support their suspension of disbelief. The moment their curious mind suggests that something in my story doesn't add up, all of my creations might just as well drift into one of the black holes they dutifully avoided.
This need not mean a tireless justification for every odd occurrence in the story, but references back to the world as we know it must remain true to the commonly accepted laws of science or contain justification. For example, in my upcoming novel the characters embark on a tour of the universe, including a pass through the sun in our solar system. Imagine our sun for a moment. If it's a clear day, peak outside and catch a glimpse. Depending on the time, you might see a bright, golden orb hanging in the sky, radiating light and heat. We often hear descriptions about golden light and energy, linking back to the sun's power.
To describe the sun in such terms as my characters enjoy a closeup view would be inaccurate. The atmosphere of planet earth is what attributes that golden hue to our nearest star. From the perspective of space, that star glows white. As an author, I can choose to have it simply appear as white light to my characters or I can contrive a means for it to appear golden just like on earth. Either way, it is my duty to address the truth of the matter in the fiction I am writing.
Similarly, taking time to review what you have written is crucial because suspension of disbelief also relies on tight continuity. This could boil down to something as simple as describing your protagonist's car with plush black leather seats in one chapter and having that same car feature a chocolate brown interior several chapters later. Keeping tabs on the world you are creating is vital to making sure your reader stays with you right to the end.
Maybe your character was born in a specific year, but the events of their childhood indicate they were born earlier or later. Again, this comes down to research. Choose a year now, any year, and search for markers of that time: major events, available technology, popular fashion and music. Everybody is unique in how they relate to the world with their own preference for sight, sound, touch, smell or taste. Using as many of those senses in your prose will illuminate your fictitious world and captivate readers with each of those preferences. For example, I am not well versed in fashion through the ages, so would struggle to read a passage that heavily described someone's attire. However, if their environment includes some familiar music, I will enjoy the ride.
Whatever your journey, investing time to make sure your details are plausible will make your story stronger and earn the trust of your reader. You might even end up tinkering with those facts to create something completely new and exciting: imagine a planet where the creatures are phosphorous based instead of carbon based like you and me... or grab a copy of my new novel, Hazel of Angeldom, in 2016 to discover what my version of that is.
About A J Le Roy
Andrew Le Roy was was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Since that time he has lived in Darwin, where he hosted a popular Drive-time radio program before moving to his current home in the Adelaide Hills.
He published a novella, Gordon's Apprentice, in 2013 and is due to release his first novel, Hazel of Angeldom, in 2016. The novel is a prequel to Gordon's Apprentice and explores the main character's journey from death on earth to finding her place in the afterlife.
Andrew established ALR Publishing in 2013 to release Gordon's Apprentice and now makes publishing available at low cost to independent authors who are ready to bring their books to the big wide world. If that sounds like you, Andrew would love to hear from you.
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A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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