A writer’s most difficult dilemma…the line between unpredictable and unbelievable.

The truth is stranger than fiction. That means fiction authors have a precarious line to walk. Readers want to be surprised, taken on a ride they didn’t expect, thrilled and tantalized….up to a point. Once you cross that imaginary line from unpredictability to unbelievability, you’ve lost ‘em. I felt that way when I saw Angels and Demons. I was suspending my disbelief, wrapped in the roller coaster plot, right up until the moment when the hero and villain get into a helicopter and zoom up into the sky with the deadly antimatter. Both manage to escape this predicament through means which I won’t disclose in case you haven’t seen it. Antimatter? I could buy it. Nefarious villain with a crazy paternity? Okay, but that helicopter scene put me right over the believability threshold. You see the dilemma facing the storyteller? It’s our job to deliver the unexpected, to provide the unpredictable while stopping a wee bit short of crossing that line that sends the reader skidding into disbelief.

Have you ever read a book or seen a movie that pushed you over the edge a bit too far? Would love to hear your thoughts.
missing person mom

6 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve always found that the writers I’ve enjoyed were able to create a suspension of disbelief with their readers. What makes a plausible premise is to start with a known reality. Then they take you away from the familiar-one step at a time. Surprises are one thing, and plausibility another. I know they cross over from time to time, Mysteries are full of surprises, but many stories, like Stephen Kings, for example, have you twisting and turning all over the place.It’s his realistic characters that pull me into his premise. Everything so ordinary. In contrast romance writers of the pulp type begin with outlandish and overblown characters, and it’s an obvious contrivance from the start. I don’t read those. But I guess that is romance to them. Hmm, I’ll have to think about this some more. An interesting question.

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    • That’s one thing I admire about Stephen King and Harlan Coben. They usually start with regular people who are completely relatable and drop them into unbelievable circumstances which carry me right along. Good points, Christine!

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  2. I actually liked UNbelievable at times when I read….I am reading to escape, so fantasy is okay. Rhonda
    nashhall@aol.com

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  3. I had a hard time with the new Star Trek movie. The Romulan mining ship was just excessively over-powered compared to everything else. I mean, they’re only from 20 years in the future — people with 1992 technology could take us on today. Not easily, true, but it wouldn’t be a complete roflstomp like it was in the Star Trek movie.

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