I read a nice mystery book the other day on the train. I did bring my diary so I’d have something sensational to read on the train, but I wanted to read something new. I had downloaded this nice book, by a nice author that on first appearance looked like a detective mystery, which I love. BUT instead, like the movie Dusk to Dawn (you’ve seen it, George Clooney with a neck tattoo), began in an interesting albeit expected way then BANG morphed into a knock-off of Twilight. And I didn’t like Twilight.
To the author’s credit, she tried to spin the old trope and inject humor and hot vampire sex. I was still unimpressed.
The book needed to be both more fun and more committed to the plot of killing the bad guy instead of wandering off through a tangle of justifications for how the modern vampire lives. I didn’t have time to get to know the characters to care about their immortal souls or whether they could sustain sunburns. What I wanted, during my nine hours on the train, was to be completely absorbed and distracted. And in that, the book did not succeed.
Take us away. We don’t care how, and frankly, the world a reader is sucked into, doesn’t need to make all that much sense in the real world. If the writing is good and the world is complete and sensible within that world, then suspension of disbelief will automatically follow and we, the readers, will happily wade into a world of vampires, pixies, fairies, what have you without a second thought, that’s why we purchased the book in the first place.
But the author must do it right. Don’t explain as much as deliver, though character’s actions, complete confidence in your fictional world. Complete certainly of your facts. The more you know, the fewer words you’ll need to convey how your fiction world works. Which is part of that ubiquitous advice: show don’t tell.
Show some poor vampire with no last name bursting into flame, and leaving nothing but a pile of ash when the bright noon sun hits his eye like a big pizza pie.
When you write, watch for those detailed explanations, they creep up and we don’t notice them as much because we birthed them and we are in love with our words. But an outside reader will catch them – it’s something I do for my clients: read the work for redundancy and too much explaining.
Allow your characters to just do it. Follow them as the race ahead of you. Resist stopping by trail and delivering a lecture on horticulture. 19th Century authors could get away with that kind of nonsense, we can’t. If your readers want to know more about Bergamot, they’ll Google it.
Your job is to distract the reader from his or her surroundings, distract them from flipping to Google in the first place.
Your job is to entertain. It’s a noble calling. Worth doing right.