The last time something unbelievable but very tangible happened to you, you might have come at it with some skepticism. You might have wondered what the catch was. But did you actually pinch yourself and later insist you must have been imagining it?
I am currently having a hard time reading a good book. It’s a fantasy, along the magical realism end by a very successful author and I keep putting it down because although the protagonist knows there is magic and knows she has it and knows she doesn’t know much about it, she keeps insisting she is imagining a very visceral, real magic experience that keeps happening to her instead of investigating it. Oh Em Gee lady! Just effing accept it already. We are halfway through the book and there are still lengthy sections about how sad she is because she can’t accept it is anything more than her imagination.
I see this so much in stories, specifically horror and fantasy. It’s like the author is worried the reader is going to think the protagonist is crazy if they accept what they are seeing right in front of them, feeling what is actually touching them, smelling actual smells, even though they are “not supposed to be there”.
Stephen King is a master at getting past this stage of disbelief in his characters quickly. They might be seeing or hearing or sensing something strange but quickly they come to accept it and move on, but other authors draw it out or even, in the case of my current read, manufacture it.
More drama? Oh please. If you need to add drama to your story it is not strong enough. To make the character sympathetic? Well, by the 18th time they blame their imagination, I am ready to kick them to the curb.
When writing, think about yourself. How would you react?
If you saw a ghost walk through your living room, how would your react the first time? If it happened again and again, how would that reaction change?
If you dabbled in a magic spell and it worked, how would your react? What if you kept going and the spells kept working?
Of course skepticism plays into all these things, especially after the fact. Maybe I nodded off and dreamed it. Maybe I just got lucky. But in that moment that you are looking at a ghost, really seeing a ghost, do you think you would really think, “Too bad this is just my imagination.”
Keep your characters real, always. Please!
And please share your thoughts!