Believability. Credibility. Plausibleness. In a word, does it wash?
In crafting fiction, it’s important to think carefully about whether the elements contained therein are reasonable, logical, and jive with empirical experience. We’re not talking here about science fiction or fantasy. The issue pertains to stories written within a real-life context. A reader can be easily turned off by an incident that simply could not logically happen, or by a careless ordering of story elements which precludes the described event.
Having an aging, overweight prisoner pole vault over a twelve-foot high fence to escape, or picturing someone outrunning a grizzly bear for fifty yards are examples of absolutely unrealistic scenarios. Another example would be a character alluding to an event which takes place several years later in the tale.
Few things turn this author off as quickly as supposedly this-world fiction that includes happenings that simply could not happen. David and Goliath notwithstanding, when a Pee-wee Herman physically conquers an Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’m outta here. It’s not an inability to appreciate fables or enjoy pretending, but when that is not ostensibly the genre, elements of the story that do not fit reality tend to dampen the literary experience.
In my novel, Bazo, the protagonist has an eidetic memory, yet that does not mean he can page through the Chicago phone book and then regurgitate it word-for-word. Having a character perform such would go far beyond the limits of experience and rationality.
Last March in Texas a shooter set a new record by hitting a 36” target 4,210 yards (2.4 miles) away. While that is an amazing feat, my encouragement would be to not have an assassin using a rifle in a novel take down a victim seven and a half miles away . . . which is impossible.
Ah, there are so many things to which an author must pay attention for the final product to be of admirable – and, yes, believable – quality. But that’s part of the fun, yes?