Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Realm of Possibility

I'm a big reader of ebooks. I have been since about 2005 when I started reading them on my computer before I graduated to the Ebookwise ereader. Now I use my iPod Touch.

During the last 5 years, I've gathered a list of favored epublishers. I know when they have their new releases and I check them out religiously. I've found a lot of great authors I probably wouldn't have had I stuck to just print books. Ebooks satisfy that instant gratification desire, especially now that I'm living in Germany. The PX and the library here is limited in choices and I don't speak/read German well enough to buy a book written in German. Ordering from the States is a minimum of a week. Have I mentioned that patience is not one of my virtues?

So I was checking out one of the epubs that I buy from on a regular basis. One of their new releases this week caught my eye. It was a new author. The blurb sounded interesting. So I clicked on the excerpt. I liked the writing, I was drawn into the story and the characters. I was interested to see what happened next. Then in the last bit of the excerpt, the heroine did something so outside the realm of possibility (for me, at least), that I was done. There would be no purchasing of said book.

This got me to thinking again (I know, it's dangerous) about what an author can get away with and still make it believable.

Back in February, I contemplated adding a scene to Blood Diamond and wondering if it was too graphic to include. Everyone encouraged me to include it, so I did. It ended up not being as graphic as I first thought it might, but it brought my story more depth and showed character motivation. Now I am asking again, how much is too much?

An excerpt is a small snip of the story, enough to whet your appetite but not enough to tell the whole story. Granted, this story was marked as to be an erotic romance and I know there is a bit more leeway in that sub-genre in regards to sex. I don't think I'm a prude. Heck, my first release was an erotic romance. But for me to enjoy it, it has to be at least semi-believable.

The heroine in this story (in this excerpt) did something that I, personally, would never, ever do and while I can't say that no one else would ever do it, I doubt there are many who would. It jerked me out of the story. I lost faith in this author and I'm so glad that incident was in the excerpt, because I would have been very disappointed to have bought the book and then read it. And I would have bought it, but for that incident.

I read to escape into another world. When I'm immersed in a good book, I'm invested in what happens to those characters. I feel what they feel and experience what they experience. Which is why, when I read a book, the characters actions should be in the realm of possibility. I'm not saying they have to make the same choices that would, but if they do something that I don't think anyone, whether I could prove it or not, would do, then they haven't sold it to me.

I'm also surprised the editor let it pass. Perhaps in the context of the rest of the story, it works. I don't know. I do know that I don't care to find out.

As an aside, I should mention that this was not urban fantasy/paranormal/fantasy/futuristic where boundaries of believable tend to be pushed. It was a contemporary.

What about you? If a character did something in a book that you thought no one in their right mind would ever do, could you keep reading to see if the author could sell it further in the story? Have you ever included a scene, or thought about including a scene, in your own writing and wondered how it would be received by readers?


Felicia Lind said...

I'm not bothered by the fact that it may be something that no one in their right mind would do - books don't have to be about people in their right minds.

But I am bothered by a character's action if it doesn't fit with the story or the character. Or if it's just bang stupid. Rarely enough to put it down though. I only do that when the story bores me.

And I agonize over scenes all the time, especially since my heroines tend not to be very nice.

Jeannene Walker said...

My problem with some books is just the writing style itself. I will just about anything, but if it is written poorly I just won't be able to finish it.

Denise said...

Hi, Riley! Denise G here. Hmm, if a character did something in a book that I thought no one in their right mind would ever do, could I keep reading to see if the author could sell it further in the story? IMHO, the author should have laid the groundwork for that earlier. Reading an excerpt, taken out of context as you pointed out, did not give you that groundwork. Ungrounded, it shocked and I understand your distress/disappointment. I'm hoping the author did prepare her readers before this scene by showing the characters' proclivities, if not other examples of that particular behavior. Reading erotica can challenge our comfort zones, but most are carefully labeled to avoid readers being slammed into something unprepared.

As for your second question: Have I ever included a scene, or thought about including a scene, in my own writing and wondered how it would be received by readers? So far, knock wood, that has not come up for me. I have had to ask for advice about scenes involving things I don't know - physical fights, gun fights, etc. But my concerm is more about accuracy than acceptability.

Sorry for the long answer, but you really got me thinking. And that's a GOOD THING!

Mary Ricksen said...

If it doesn't fit, it doesn't work and draws the reader right out of the story. And as in your case, never to return!
Good luck!

Lilly Gayle said...

For me, it comes down to motivation. Did the character have a logical reason for acting the way he/she did? Even if it is an action I would never take myself, I can overlook the ick factor or suspend disbelief if the writer shows me WHY the character did what they did or acted the way the did. Even in real life, people act irrationally, but there's always a reason. And I'm one of those people who wants to know what that reason is.

Gale Stanley said...

I write paranormal so reality is stretched right off the bat. But even in the context of shape-shifters I try to keep the characters thinking and acting realistically. Wow, now I'm really curious. Can you tell us what the character was up to?

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