The Authors Collection: Does plausibility make good fiction?
May 7, 2013
People read novels to escape the real world, right?
Maybe. But they still want the world in the novel to feel like the real world.
Enter plausibility as an essential element in fiction writing.
I’ll give you a case in point.
The other day at a conference I was talking shop with an author who was new to me. We discussed his book and he asked me about the elevator pitch for my latest work.
An elevator pitch is what you would tell someone about a book if you had to do it during a ride on an elevator. It is the down and dirty about the book. We had just listened to a presentation about elevator pitches, so this author was asking me to take that presentation to heart and see if I could do one.
“In The Alzheimer’s Conspiracy, the CIA and a major drug company develop a drug that will induce Alzheimer’s. The CIA uses this drug to neutralize its enemies. An agent tries to blow the whistle on the deal, but falls victim to the disease before he can do so. His son takes up the battle for him and enlists the aid of a country lawyer, a Texas Ranger and a beautiful medical researcher.”
The other author thought about the set up for a minute before he spoke. Then he told me about some medical research he was aware of involving proteins called prions. That research had led to a number of breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research, the search for a cure.
I had not mentioned anything to him about prion research.
But I knew about it.
“The sinister, top secret project in my book is named Project Prion,” I said.
He thought about it.
“That’s a very plausible story,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “Researchers are inducing Alzheimer’s in laboratory rats right now.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he said.
You get the point. When an author creates the world of his novel, he should give a lot of thought, and conduct some research, into the critical components of the plot. If she concocts something too far-fetched, readers may dismiss the whole set up for the book. But if the book embraces cutting edge science or technology, research in its infancy, the bit becomes not only plausible but thought-provoking.
What ifs are premised on what ares.