If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our August Author Interviews--8/2 Maggie Toussaint, 8/9 Kellye Garrett, 8/16 Matt Ferraz, 8/23 Matthew Iden, 8/30 Julia Buckley. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

August Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/5--Kathleen Kaska, 8/12 Triss Stein, WWK bloggers-Margaret S. Hamilton on 8/19 and Kait Carson on 8/26. Look for E. B. Davis's blog on 8/29--the fifth Tuesday of August.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.”

In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on October, 18, 2017. Look for the interview by E. B. Davis here on that date!

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

SUSPENDING BELIEF





Some people have no trouble believing in almost everything they read, see or hear. Those are the gullible ones, like my mother-in-law and father-in-law. They bought the supermarket rags in the checkout line and believed everything they read no matter how outlandish or how fake the pictures. What about the gorgeous models on magazine covers? How many question whether they could be that thin and have no blemishes? What about reality shows? Are there people who believe it’s all true-life and not scripted at all?

The recent flap over Beyoncé lip-syncing the National Anthem makes me wonder if it really deserved all that media attention for days and days. The day was cold and wintery so it made sense to me to sing it in advance in the studio. I seem to remember Yo-yo Ma doing the same thing with his cello four years ago because string instruments can quickly go out of tune in the cold. It was still a stirring performance for me and millions of others, and I’m sure most people felt that way about Beyoncé, too. Why couldn’t some people accept that she didn’t sing that day?

But when does it become okay and not okay for a writer to fudge the truth? We expect news reporters to write the truth – not that they always do. Columnists, on the other hand, have a political or personal agenda they want to get across. I imagine most of us believe or disbelieve the columnist according to our personal beliefs.

Writers of non-fiction are expected to be truthful. James Frey got pilloried when it was discovered some of his memoir was not the whole truth. Greg Mortenson, who wrote Three Cups of Tea followed by Stones into Schools, became a best-selling author with his books flying off the shelves The non-profits he started did very well as he toured the country speaking about his mission to build schools, especially for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a worthwhile endeavor until it crashed after it was discovered all he claimed to have done in the first book wasn’t totally true. I have a feeling this naïve, simple man, was encouraged to exaggerate some parts to make it more exciting by the person who helped him write the book. What a shame.

So as fiction writers, how much can we shade reality and have our readers suspend belief or at least not bothered by it?  Obviously, those writing paranormal or science fiction don’t have to worry as much. But even traditional mysteries often ask the reader to suspend their beliefs. Take the many versions of Sherlock Holmes. Can one detective really be that brilliant? But those of us who love him, are willing to suspend belief, or in an elderly sleuth like Miss Marple, who solves many crimes by her astute observations.

We who write series count on readers to suspend belief, especially in cozies. Okay, how many times can an amateur sleuth, who walks dogs, caters meals, runs a book store or is a gardener find a body and solve a crime? How many small towns like Cabot’s Cove in the Murder She Wrote series can have dead bodies showing up before no one wants to live there anymore?

Because my series is on a gardening timeline; the first in June, the second in July, the third in August, and the fourth (still to be started) in September, I need to wrap up my mysteries in a two to three week period. Autopsies and DNA testing take time. To get around that I assume the reader won’t care if an autopsy is done within a few days. As for the DNA testing,  my police chief has a good friend he went to college with in some position in the Ohio BCI, who rushes things through for him.

                                                                                                                       

As a mystery reader, I’m willing to suspend belief – at least to a certain extent if the writer makes it seem plausible. I think in most of us there is a wanting to believe stretching back to childhood. We wanted to believe in Santa Claus and fairies, and we want to believe the good guys will win, and the bad guys will get their justice where at least in most books they will. That could be one of the reasons mysteries are so popular.


Are you able to suspend your belief when reading mysteries?

If you’re a writer, how, where and why do you sometimes fudge the facts?




12 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Keep me in the story and I’ll love in the world you paint. I can be flexible about “real” world timelines, but be consistent in your world. If you start playing loose with your own rules, you’ll lose my interest,

I think many mysteries compress timeframes compared to real-world police work. The judicial system should be as prompt as I make them in my work. I’m not interested in “Three months later the lawyers had a meeting with the judge to discuss procedural matters before the start of the trial next month…”

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

I agree with you,Jim. Once I read the first of a series I'd looked forward to because it covered an area and culture I'm familiar with. But the writer had a character saying something ludicrous showing she didn't know the place or people she was writing about. It jarred me enough not to want to read any more of her series. This was a writer who'd been hired by a publisher to write the book following a certain theme. And yet I read a lot of praise for this writer's book and subsequent ones so it wasn't a problem with those who apparently weren't familiar with the place and culture.

Rhonda Lane said...

Very interesting questions, Gloria. We're expected to compress a lot of timeline events like police lab work, otherwise our story pacing drags. If we write Amateur Sleuths, we have to show how and why a civilian would take on a rogue murder investigation. Also, we have to keep the details right or at least ringing true in the Special World of the story. It's a balancing act, like spinning plates on stage. I think each reader has his or her own tipping point out of the story. This is a great post with lots of food for thought.

B.K. Stevens said...

I enjoyed your post, Gloria. As a reader, I don't worry much about DNA results coming back too quickly. I'm also quite willing to suspend disbelief when an amateur sleuth keeps stumbling across bodies--that's a time-honored mystery tradition. I get skeptical, though, when a detective (amateur or not) just happens to overhear conversations revealing vital clues; after two overheard conversations, I'm likely to stop reading. I also get impatient when a protagonist we're supposed to admire keeps taking risks no sensible person would take. If the protagonist is a teenager, all right--we expect teenagers to do foolish things. But when a middle-aged woman who's supposed to be intelligent follows a dangerous suspect down a dark alley or removes evidence from a crime scene, I either stop believing she's intelligent or stop believing the story altogether.

Gloria Alden said...


You're right, Rhonda, it is a balancing act. That's why I count on my beta readers to catch anything that seems too unbelievable.

B.K. I agree with you about the amateur sleuth taking dangerous chances. But if they only acted like I would, the story would be boring, so I do have her get into some dangerous situations, but not from being foolhardy.

Thank you, Rhonda and B.K. for stopping by and giving me your thoughts.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I'm with B.K. and you, Gloria. I stop believing when the protagonist throws herself foolhardily into a dangerous situation. It's usually laziness on the writer's part. If they'd spent more time on it, they could have found a way to put their protagonist in danger without stepping out of character or exhibiting terminal stupidity.

And on Three Cups of Tea, if you'll research it, you'll find that Greg Mortenson was basically a con man, and the writer, a respected journalist, was the one who was victimized and committed suicide, even though the courts and witnesses put all the blame on Mortenson (who was using the books and his nonprofits to live a rock-star lifestyle).

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I didn't know that. I guess I never followed through on the first news reports. I do know he wasted a lot of the money. Do you know what happened with his marriage over this? Did she stick with him? Jon Krakhauer was the one who exposed him, wasn't he?

E. B. Davis said...

I can suspend my disbelief if all the elements add up and are pull together cohesively. I can't suspend my belief when fiction contradicts reality, though, which is why I'm not a fan of those book that use real-life characters as their main characters and then fictionalize their lives. I used Blackbeard in one of my books, but my story was set in his afterlife, not while he lived. Instead, I based his afterlife on his real life and gave historical details to create authenticity.

Patg said...

I have no problem suspending belief. I'M PICKING UP A 'NOVEL' TO READ. And, of course, I'm a major SF and some fantasy reader.
Remember what Harlan Ellison said, "I'm telling you this is true for the sake of the story! Believe it for now and enjoy."
What bugs me is when they tell you something they swear is true and it is simply badly researched information.
Patg

Norma Huss said...

I'm pretty good at suspending belief when I'm reading, but once I tried to reread a book (when I was a teenager) because I loved it so much, and THEN I discovered all the stuff that was totally unbelievable. (Or maybe it was the poor writing.)
As a writer, I try to stay true to possibilities, which is why I check things with Dr. Lyle and Leslie Budowitz (did I spell that correctly?). Totally awesome and appreciated people!

Gloria Alden said...

E.B. that sounds like a fun story. I don't have trouble reading something like that, but that's probably because I'm willing to believe in an afterlife - or at least not totally disbelieve.

Pat, I like what Harlan Ellison said. Unless, of course, like E.B. said the story doesn't fit together cohesively. I've never particularly wanted to read vampire or zombie books, but that's my personal taste and not necessarily unwillingness to believe for the duration of the story.

Marilyn Larew said...

I'm a historian. I've taught American history, military history, the history of terrorism. My husband is a Europeanist. One way and another I know a fair amount about history, so when I see a historical mistake, I take notice. One or two mistakes, particularly if they're close together, will give me pause, but the third will see me putting the book down muttering.

The worst failure of suspension of disbelief, though, happened to me recently when I suddenly couldn't believe my own book. It is a lesson how not to use real people in a plot. When I began this book, back before the last ice age, the group I was using was on the run and almost done for. My girl could do her stuff on them, but within the last few months the group has carved out a fief in northern Mali and seized a gas refinery in Algeria. Crash. I finally had to scrap them and invent a group. Lesson learned.