Authenticity is a popular word and concept in marketing, whether you’re trying to build rapport with a potential employer or with potential clients. Authenticity also refers to being real which translates into versimilitude.
I write about realism in fiction a lot, because all too often inexperienced authors write for themselves and forget about their readers.
That said, every author should, first and foremost, write for himself or herself. As I put it: Write the story you want to read. However, that pertains mostly to the first draft. In the following drafts during the editing and revision process, you turn your manuscript into something that other people want to read.
To make even the most absurd, illogical, strange, incredible, impossible story appeal to readers, you must introduce realism. Facts and truth (which are not necessarily the same) add that verisimilitude that earns the reader’s trust.
Here’s a case in point.
In a writing forum, a writer posted about his story which takes place on a dark planet. He specified the planet does not orbit a sun and light is provided by distant stars. I immediately responded with questions, because … science.
A planet that receives no sunlight has no life. There can be no photosynethesis, which plants need. There can be no heat, which a sun provides. There are no seasons. There is no way to measure time. Any moons orbiting the planet will not be seen, because moons do not emit light; they reflect it.
In short, there are a lot of issues with that author’s premise that need to be resolved in a realistic manner before readers will entrust that author to take them further into a world of fantastic impossibility.
On a smaller scale, I encounter the lapse of realism frequently in historical fiction. These lapses usually concern horses, language, manners, dress, and other elements that could easily be resolved with a bit of research. For instance, trousers seldom had zippers before the late 1800s; ladies didn’t wear panties until the 1920s and didn’t wear drawers until the mid-1800s. When is comes to pre-industrial travel, a carriage and team of horses didn’t get from London to Gretna Green in a few hours or within a day or two; that journey along the Great North Road took about nine days in good weather and with decent road conditions.
If you write fiction, then it’s still important to do your research. That research need not be terribly deep or extensive, but it should establish veracity and the conviction that you know what you’re writing about. It’s only when you have secured the reader’s trust with those elements of realism that the reader will follow you into the fantastic.
Even in science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal fiction where the reader comes to the story ready to trust the author, verisimilitude is crucial. A lack of realism disappoints the reader and causes the story to crash and burn.
That’s a good way to lose a reader.
In addition to doing your research to ensure verisimilitude, another way to ensure realism in your stories is to hire an editor. Realism is not something editing software can detect. Editing software is helpful for identifying grammar errors and even in tightening overwritten prose, but it cannot detect plot holes, inconsistencies, time lapses, disjointed connections, or verisimilitude.
Are you writing a story? By all means, use editing software to help you refine your work, then hire a competent editor to make it better yet and tackle what software cannot. Hen House Publishing does all that and more.