OPINION: Verisimilitude in Fiction, Redux.Posted: September 3, 2014
As I mentioned in this article, I’m a stickler for verisimilitude. I found some discussion on the lack of realism in fiction, which is not the issue:
What many people are looking for in fiction is verisimilitude: the story has to ‘ring true’. Actions have to be believable. Behaviour has to be consistent. Actions need to have consequences.
It’s not the same as realism, as reality will have unbelievable action, inconsistent behaviour, and the consequences of actions are sometimes completely lacking or not in relation to the action.
Verisimilitude—like justice and honesty—is an idealistic concept: we think we know what the truth is, just as we think we know what justice is and think ourselves to be honest. However, truth is different for anyone; justice is an ideal that is rarely found in real life; and if you’re honest 24/7, you will be severely lonely.
Truth is relative, which is why it can be applied to fiction. If the author poses a kind of truth that is supported by the story, the reader will suspend their disbelief, trusting the author to deliver on their promise.
If the author fails to support the truth they pose, the story will become ‘unbelievable’ and reviewers will say the book isn’t ‘realistic’. That’s not the case: the author just didn’t manage to support the truths they posed in the story.
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