A coaching client confessed recently that one of her worst fears was that no one will believe her novel, that readers will say “This could never happen” and stop reading. That fear generated a lot of writing resistance until we worked through it.
Most of us have similar fears. I’d hate it if someone thought my fiction was contrived or my nonfiction unreliable.
What would it mean if your readers found your writing unbelievable? Would it mean you failed as a writer? That you’re a “bad” writer? That you’re naive or ignorant or lacking in some other way? Would it mean your writing was fatally flawed?
Finding out that readers thought your writing lacked credibility would be fatal only if you allowed that to be a final judgment, if you said to yourself, “Someone finds my writing unbelievable? I better quit now and never return to writing.”
Realistically, if someone finds your writing unbelievable, it only means that you not done writing. It means you haven’t fully developed the story. You haven’t provided enough foreshadowing and insight into the characters to allow the reader to follow the plot twists and arrive at the same conclusion with you, no matter how unexpected those plot twists and conclusion are.
If readers think your nonfiction is unbelievable, it means you haven’t provided enough credible sources and facts and haven’t sufficiently explained your logic trail. In other words, it means you’re not done writing.
From West Side Story to Antwerp
The ultimate example of unrealistic and unbelievable fiction is when the characters in a musical all stop what they’re doing to break into song and dance. West Side Story stretched credibility past the breaking point for me.
Admittedly, when you go to a musical, you agree to suspend a very large amount of disbelief (or you can’t enjoy the musical). Can you imagine a novel or short story where characters convincingly break into orchestrated and choreographed song and dance in a public place? Totally unreal, right?
Take a look at this video from the train station in Antwerp. I’m sure there are hundreds of stories that could be told about why one of these people chose to participate in a flash mob and what conflicts that character encountered and overcame to come to bring her/his story to this conclusion.
Anything is Possible
Any story is possible. If your story is not believable to your readers, that does not mean you’re a “bad writer” or that the story is unworthy. It just means you’re not done working with it.
The solution, as it almost always is, is to keep showing up and putting in your 15 Magic Minutes. You might also want to improve your craft skills by taking a good class, reading good books or working with a writing mentor or coach. In other words, keep challenging yourself and keep learning as you keep showing up.
By the way, if you’re inspired to write a story about a flash mob participant, I’d love it if you shared part or all of it in a comment. Here’s your chance to publish!