Saturday, June 20, 2009

Truth in Fiction

My husband and I saw The Taking of Pelham 123 last week. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the fact that there were a couple spots in the movie that were highly implausible. (I had problems with the fact that the bulk of the movie took place over the course of 1 hour, yet the city of New York was remarkably well organized, responsive, and able to pull off an amazing amount of feats in that short period of time.)

Even though I found myself thinking a couple times, "Yeah, right," my enjoyment of the movie didn't waver. It was fun, it was entertaining, and that fine line of poetic license didn't get in my way. But I know it does for some people.

I have friends and relatives who are sticklers for accuracy in fiction. Put anything in a book or movie that is of questionable plausibility and they're turned off completely. Personally, I think if you insist on 100% reality maybe fiction isn't your thing. After all, the definition of fiction is "Not True". I know from experience that in order to write an entertaining story you need certain things to happen. Take an element out and you don't have a book. Imagine the movie Speed, then consider there's no way a bus could continue traveling through the city at 50 miles an hour. It's the central core of the plot. Lose it and you have no movie. Is it realistic? Of course not. But it's not being billed as a documentary. It's entertainment. We're expected to give a little on reality.

But how much? While I'm not excessively particular for reality in fiction, like most people, I have a line I draw, as well as hot buttons. I'm more willing to give on certain subjects than others. I know cops who won't watch CSI because the procedures aren't right, yet these same people watch a James Bond film without batting an eyelash. I'm sure doctors are sticky when it comes to shows like House. I know readers of Historical romance can be very particular about getting the period details right.

I think for me, I'm more a stickler about a character's behavior than I am about plot devices. The TSTL (too stupid to live) syndrome will cause me to toss a book across the room far faster than the improbable situation they're in. Especially in romance, one of my hot buttons is when thoughts of attraction are thrown in at a completely inappropriate moment. Like if a cop is standing outside a door, gun in hand, ready to storm a room where a woman being held hostage. 3..2..1 they bust the door open to find bad guy holding a gun to victim's head, and supposed smart-hero cop's first though is, "Wow, what a babe. Look at those beautiful green eyes. I wonder if she's single."

I would have gone with you through a half-dozen bungling coincidences that got the victim there in the first place, but the moment you throw the inappropriately-timed attraction in, I'm setting the book down for good.

That's my hot button. What about you? Are you a stickler for plausibility when it comes to movies or books? Can you forgive some things but not others? And if you have hot buttons, what are they?

Lori Borrill has just finished writing her 8th novel for Harlequin Blaze. Her next release, THE PERSONAL TOUCH, will be on shelves August, 2009. For more information on Lori and her books, check out her website at


EllenToo said...

I'm not a diehard stickler for accuracy but I want some reasonable accuracy unless the book is labeled sci-fi (and then I won't read it) but if the author gets too outlandish then I'm likely to put it in the "don't bother to read" category.

Alison said...

My absolute hatred in a Historical is when the author or a character uses 'a bit'...'a bit concerned', 'a bit crowded'. It's so clunky and never fits the period. Nothing wrong with 'a little', 'a trifle', 'somewhat' - make up your own - but 'a bit' jars like you wouldn't believe.

Mari said...

I don't have too many complaints...what I don't like is when an author is overzealous in their quest to let the reader know how much they researched the era. I read a book once that featured a heroine who helped her father at his blacksmith shop. The author went through page after page descibing the smelting process...really way to many details that an editor should have cleaned up. Simililarly, the author then went on to describe, in exhaustive detail, all of the history of the region at the time that had nothing to do with the protagonists.
I like history, but not when the book become a treatise and not at the expense of the story.

Cheri2628 said...

I find that I can overlook a lot in an action/adventure. Like when the hero/heroine miraculously escape a hail of bullets! ;-)