A Beginner’s Guide to Believable FF&P by Tana Lovett
- I am a rookie, unpublished, wet behind the ears, newly ejected from the turnip truck, fledgling author. I’m in the querying stage with my very first novel (but, doggone, it’s good!)
- I would not describe myself as being a writer of fantasy, futuristic or paranormal fiction, per se.
That being said, I believe any good story can be made great with a hint of romance, and any great story can be made better with a sprinkling of whimsy, imagination, miraculous events, other-worldliness or wishes-come-true.
After many months of agonizing over which genre my story, As Long As There Is Chocolate, falls into, I’m calling it “Small Town Contemporary Sweet & Sassy Rom Com”. (I’m not really calling it that, but it should totally be a thing.)
I am not calling it “Paranormal.”
But there are those dead people who keep visiting my heroine in her sleep. And the spirit-guide squirrel, Mr. Nuttycheeks. And a Ouija-board-type landscape sketching experience. Okay, and the visions. There are those too.
Yet in my future NY Times Bestseller novel, these aren’t the things that stand out to the reader. The characters, voice, humor, and dialog are strong enough that ghosts in the attic seem perfectly logical and incidental.
(The boldness of the above statements, coming from a writer still wet-behind-her-turnip-truck-rookie-ears, does not escape me. But roll with me for a minute.)
Something I’ve learned from the voices in my head this year is that, in order to connect more with an audience, it’s not what makes your settings and characters and situations the most different from real life, but that which makes them more the same. A reader won’t believe your world unless they can somehow relate it to their world.
Whether writing fantasy, futuristic, paranormal, or any other genre (because everyday moments can be magical too), creating relatability creates believability.
: something that is produced by the imagination : an idea about doing something that is far removed from normal reality
: the act of imagining something
: relating to or telling about events in the future
: very strange and not able to be explained by what scientists know about nature and the world
: unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature : of, relating to, or seeming to come from magic, a god, etc.
With the above definitions considered, so many of our favorite “traditional” books could be found to have elements of FF&P within them. In any story, it’s the non-fantastical components that make the fantasy more real.
Jungle Book is a classic tale, not because it is about animals, but because of their anthropomorphic traits, which make us relate to them on a human level. For 120 years we’ve been cool with talking animals who raise a man-cub, because Kipling tapped into that which is familiar in us—our humanity.
In The Hunger Games trilogy, we are invested in the story because of Katniss Everdeen’s love for her sister and the conflicted feelings she has for two young men. The dystopian society she lives in is believable and frightening because of the similarities we see between futuristic Panem and modern-day western civilization. Relatability creates believability.
While the greatness of Firefly…
[This paragraph has been interrupted for a moment of silence in remembrance of Firefly…]
…can largely be laid at the feet of the production company, we would not be mourning the loss of the show all these years later were it not for the writers’ skill at crafting relatability, which generated the story’s believability. The characters were perfectly flawed, the world tied into our known history and fears about our future, and Nathan Fillion was smoking hot. (Sorry. It was the elephant in the room.)
Whether you are writing about time-traveling-shape-shifting Ewoks, a space world where today’s accepted mores are turned upside down, or the magic of a Bronx cop who wins the lottery and shares the winnings with a waitress — a world of your imagination can’t reach the heart of your reader if the humanity of your story does not.
So be as imaginative as you want when creating your world full of characters, but don’t forget to include human elements that will help lure your reader inside.
Tana Lovett once wrote ad copy for a nutritional supplements company—some of her best fiction to date. She currently works as a freelance writer and graphic designer. She also serves on the boards of both her local RWA chapter and a chapter of a state-wide writing organization. She can be found at: tanalovett.com, on Twitter @tanalovett, and on facebook here and here.