One of the things planners often have less trouble dealing with is Mr. Random Messenger. Inexperienced (and sometimes experienced) â€œSeat of the Pantsâ€ writers occasionally feel like theyâ€™ve written themselves into a corner. The only perceivable way out is to introduce a twist to the story that solves the immediate problem. Sometimes, itâ€™s the twist that ends up causing more trouble then the original dilemma.
Fiction depends upon your readersâ€™ ability to absorb the world and the characters they are reading about. The most enjoyable fiction allows readers to step away from reality and feel like they can exist in this alternate world. They MUST believe that these characters could truly exist there. This requires an intimate balance called the willing suspension of disbelief.
â€œTruth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.â€ Mark Twain
The suspension of disbelief is about creating extraordinary or fanciful elements in such a way that, despite being â€˜out of this worldâ€™ or even â€˜against the laws of Earth physicsâ€™, SEEM real in the reality youâ€™ve created.
Who loved Docâ€™s Time Machine, the Delorean in Back to the Future? It was unbelievable. If your next door neighbor drove that pile of scrap into your driveway and said he was about to go into the future with it youâ€™d probably laugh till you cry and tell him to stay away from the rum. Itâ€™s just NOT believable, in this reality. But, in Back to the Future we believed it. The story introduced this absurd idea and we WANTED to believe. Despite how absolutely crazy it was, viewers around the world suspended their disbelief because it made an incredible story.
When it comes to our novels it is important to ensure every element aids this feeling. However, Mr. Random Messenger can sometimes completely obliterate the suspension of disbelief. The truth is, as insane as the idea of a flying time machine car may be it was feasible in this alternate reality. If however, a freight jet fell out of the sky full of plutonian the minute Marty crashed into the barn after going through time it would have destroyed our ability to put our faith into that story. (Not to mention forcing an early close to the whole developing plot.)
â€œThe difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.â€ Tom Clancy
If you find yourself glaring at a dead end and need to throw a twist into your story it HAS to fit with what you have, it has to be realistic, it has to be explainable. Fiction, unlike real life, has to make sense. You can have fantastical things but in that fantastical world they have to be reasonable. Readers are fickle; they read for pleasure and expect certain things from the books they read. Readers are not stupid however, the moment they feel duped or let down they may put your book aside in favor of something more believable, something more involving, and something they can disappear into to leave their mundane lies behind.
â€œIt’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.â€ Mark Twain
Never give your characters and easy out. If itâ€™s too easy, itâ€™s not believable.
Never have a random event that doesnâ€™t tie into the overall plot. If it isnâ€™t related to the rest of your story it isnâ€™t believable.
Never give your main characters a problem they canâ€™t solve themselves. Your stars should do all the work. If a third grade Girl Scout, delivering cookies, gets them out of a situation itâ€™s just not believable.
Having said all of this there are some genres that are built on Mr. Random Messenger. Comedy for example is rife with extreme odds and unexplainable happenings. Mystery on the other hand is all about the tightly woven threads of plot. Thrillers are best when weâ€™re terrified of the axe murderer because he â€˜feelsâ€™ real. Fantasy gives you a lot of leeway when it comes to imagination but ultimately readers want to exist in the alternate world we create for them.
â€œFiction reveals truth that reality obscures.â€ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Watch out for Mr. Random Messenger. He can be a wonderful tool to get you out of a tight situation but he should be carefully monitored. Often he needs to be woven into the rest of the story. You may not need to worry about it so much in the first draft but he is something you should keep a sharp eye for in a second.
Take your readers on a journey. Give them a reality that is more real than real life. Truth is truer. Life is livelier. Everything makes sense and happens for a reason. Thatâ€™s how fiction works.