It’s just a story

I sometimes edit for other people, and sometimes it’s a bit of work. I’m sure some of those writers think I’m too serious about it. I don’t mean to be too serious, but yeah, I admit I am more serious than others. I have always been the kind of person who wants my work to be the best it can be, because it’s mine. I generally don’t like it if I have to finish something and feel it’s not what it should be.

This goes for my stories. I know a lot of people don’t care overly much how good or proper their stories are, and I certainly don’t stay up nights worried about the odd typo. What I do worry about is: does my story make sense? Did I contradict myself somewhere? Did I establish a rule for my story and break it? Did I follow my rules?

So when I edit, as I go along, I ask myself: does this make sense? And when I ask that, I mean, does this make sense in the author’s world?

I think just about any premise will work for a story, provided the author sets it up. I have written stories about people who turn into animals, about witches and vampires. I have read stories about dragons, and stories about secret Nazi groups attempting to assert control over the world, and many things in between. I do not demand “realistic realism,” to coin a phrase, from people I edit for.

So to a point, “It’s just a story” is a fine excuse. But I think it only gets you so far. If you want to write about werewolves, then great. It’s just a story. You want to write about a secret group of conspirators who want to take over the government, no problem. It’s just a story. And so on, for stories ranging from Stephen King’s It to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

After that, though, the onus is on the author to set out the rules for their world, and more importantly, to stick with them. And not just the new rules about the werewolves or aliens or whatever. You also have to keep the rules for whatever parts of the story are “normal.”

If you have spies dealing with aliens, in a contemporary world, the those spies need to act plausibly like spies. They can’t just start acting like this happens all the time. They need to adjust, to figure it out, to figure out how they apply what they know to this new situation. In a story like The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen can’t be a frivolous teenager; such a thing might kill her. So she’s not like that. Collins has made her heroine plausible for the world she inhabits, and that makes the story as a whole believable to the reader.

So yes, I will encourage a writer to make things believable and consistent, both for themselves and the reader.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I only copy edited, spelling, grammar, syntax and some continuity. But my aim was to make sure nothing came between the reader and the story.


  2. Posted by Grisbuff on March 27, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the term “willing suspension of disbelief”. I feel it is the author’s job, even in “just a story” to help the reader keep their disbelief suspended. That includes not breaking the flow with a misspelling or homophonic error, but it is mainly about making it all “seem real.” I read a lot of science fiction, so “seem real” for me is about universal rules. Things like: Animals/aliens/people of whatever stripe don’t waste effort unless they’re playing or have some kind of kink. Physics and chemistry work as expected unless you tell us why not (and there should be few “why not” exceptions). … and in passing, I think you do all of that quite well, when you’re writing fiction.


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