Whether it be books or movies, questioning the leaps of faith that we in the audience are asked to make if we are to be convinced that the storyline is realistic is inevitable. It is certainly one of the most popular discussions of any book or movie when people are debating if a certain scene could have really happened or not.
It occurred to me that an author has to have a good balance regarding this topic. One of my favorite authors, Dan Brown, always seems to have a couple of scenes in every book that are so fantastic or amazing that it stretches the imagination. And it works. In my opinion, his books are mini-movies, and the pages practically turn themselves. A fantastic scene that stretches the imagination is acceptable to me as long as it isn’t over done throughout the book.
The same thing goes for movies, although I think movies can feature a little more artistic license with regard to this topic. The Indiana Jones movies are a perfect example of this. It might be incredulous that Indiana Jones was able to do some of the feats that he did throughout those movies. And yet we all love them as audience viewers.
I think it’s important to look for that fine line of balance as I look over the novel I’m writing. Keeping it real and moving quickly while I’m looking for that opportunity to have something amazing happen. Stretching the reader’s imagination isn’t a bad thing. As long as it isn’t over done.
Another topic I’ve been thinking of recently is details. Specifically, the details of the protagonist (and other characters) as they go through the book. My favorite authors put me in the book, and I can experience what the protagonist is doing. Even if they’re multitasking. Kim Harrison does this in the Hollows Series with Rachel Morgan. Rachel will be mixing a witch’s spell in her kitchen while either having a conversation with someone else or thinking to herself. I can picture the kitchen like I’ve pictured my own, because Kim puts me there. And the steps in mixing the spell are as detailed as if I’m making banana cake in my own kitchen. So much so, that I wonder what baking recipe Kim was thinking about when she writes those scenes. Conversations with other characters are a plus because she goes back and forth between mixing the individual ingredients of the spell and continuing the conversation. These are characteristics I want in my writing.
Last, a topic I’ve thought about frequently is when the protagonist is in trouble so deeply that I as a reader get annoyed. Like getting pushed around or bullied, or even just unfairly blamed for a crime they didn’t commit. There have been times where that has been agonizing for me as a reader, and yet I notice that it’s an effective method to keep me turning those pages so I can see how it turns out. I want to see that protagonist vindicated even a little bit. This is hard to do as an author, but necessary to keep the characters real.