Without further adieu, I give you my selection of the No. 1 Tip from WD in 2009:
No. 1: Details, Plausibility and the Flipped Trike
“An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”
—Stephen King, as interviewed in the May/June 2009 issue of WD (click here to check it out).
Enigmatic? Anticlimactic? To give deeper context to a quote I love and wouldn’t mind making little printable versions of for my computer monitors, here’s King again:
“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything. Or a broken billboard. Or weeds growing in the cracks of a library’s steps. Of course, none of this means a lot without characters the reader cares about.”
To take things a step further, here’s author Steve Almond on plausibility, from our March/April issue—
“The question of plausibility is central when it comes to fiction. Can you induce the reader to believe? More precisely, to suspend her disbelief? All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies. Such is the basic goodwill contract made the moment we pick up a work of fiction. … The lesson is this: Readers will happily suspend their disbelief (even in the face of space aliens and angels) if they feel their emotional and logistical questions have been addressed, and if the world they encounter feels internally consistent. In the end, plausibility in fiction isn’t about adhering to the facts of the known world, but the imagined world.”
Plausibility. If we don’t have it, we might not have anything. I suppose an overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood really can stand for everything.
Thanks for sticking around and reading the tips over the last two months! To browse the other 19, click “Top 20 Lessons From WD: 2009” to your left. And consider taking a crack at our magazine’s Your Story prompt (we run one every issue; it’s an open contest in which one story, selected by forum members and WD editors, runs in the magazine).
In 750 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring, post your story in the comments section of Promptly, and it will be automatically entered in the contest, or e-mail it to email@example.com. (There’s only one entry allowed per person, and you have until the Jan. 10 deadline.) Should your story win and you posted it here, I’ll contact you for your name and mailing address when the time comes. Good luck!
WRITING PROMPT: Your Story No. 23
Something bizarre occurs at the table next to a couple on their first date.
—From the Writer’s Book of Matches (click here to check out a digital version) by the staff of fresh boiled peanuts: a literary journal