13 November 2014

Making Believable Fiction Out of Reality

My yard after the freak October snowstorm. That's our swingset under there.
One of the final copy edit notes I received back this month for the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance was that the near-deadly snowstorm that opens the book is wrong.

The copy editor, bless her, thought more snow should be present, especially in the aftermath.

Here's the problem: the snowstorm in the book is an exact replica of one I'd suffered through three years ago, a rare Halloween storm that hit when all the leaves were still on the trees. This led to trees coming down all over the place in New England, including four around my house. Luckily, none on my house but I was awake that whole night listening to cracking and falling branches.

The aftermath was worse. My yard looked like a disaster area. So many branches littered my half-acre lot that we couldn't walk around. Four trees had completely fallen and the top of one was just six inches from the back of my house.

We lost power for eleven days. In New England. In November. It was nightmarish, as the damage was all around.

In Phoenix Inheritance, I'd taken care to point out the problem wasn't the snow. Six inches is not that big a deal. Even in New Jersey, it'll only halt life for half a day. No, the problem was that the weight of the snow brought down the trees.

But, still, the copy editor was right: just because I put something real into my story, it didn't make it believable. As the saying goes, fiction isn't real life. Fiction has to make sense.

Readers can accept all sorts of crazy premises so long as they're believable. The last Phoenix Institute novel, Ghost Phoenix,  contains a Court of Immortals and a woman who can walk through walls.
Not to mention that the hero, Richard Genet, is one of the Lost Princes in the Tower thought killed by Richard III, as in the famous "my kingdom for a horse" Shakespeare play.

I've never had a complaint from a reader or a copy editor about these impossible elements. That's because all readers (myself included) will buy into a premise, just so long as its fictionally supported. My immortals, including Prince Richard, have lived so long because they use an inner telekinetic power to heal their bodies. My heroine, Marian Doyle, walks through walls using a telekinetic ability to confront the molecules of her own body. It's fiction but it makes sense in the story context.

A snowstorm where only six inches of snow caused the damage I described in the book? Not so much.

That's because even in real life, it was a freak storm. I probably wouldn't have believed that amount of snow could have caused that amount of destruction if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

I went back and tweaked those chapters about the snowstorm for those who hadn't been through my experience.

To make sure it made sense. :)
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Corrina Lawson (www.corrina-lawson.com) is the author of the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series and the steampunk romantic mystery, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract. She lives in New England. :)
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