Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gaining a Reader's Trust

I aspire to write an exciting book that will touch the lives of readers. A noble cause, wouldn't you agree?

To touch a reader's life, I ought to gain their trust starting on the first page and maintaining to the last. 


Clearly my friend Casey, pictured to the left, has found a fantastic book. She appears engaged, unwilling to set the book down--even for the camera, and committed to not losing her place. Once her paparazzi puts away his/her camera, Casey most likely dove back into the story.


Why? What captured her attention. Among thousands of plausible answers, I think she believed in the storyline.


Is my book believable?

We create exciting stories.  But--


if the reader detects impossibilities unsupported by characters, setting, and plot, 
we lose their trust.

Take me to Mars, but not on a skateboard. 
      Cast off the cruise ship, but not from Paraguay. 
           Fight the Civil War, but not with an atom bomb. 
              Send the fastest message to Laura Ingalls Wilder but not with email. 
                 Monsters need to be scary (except in Monsters, Inc.), 
                      mysteries should be perplexing, 
                           dark alleys frightening, 
                               a kiss dreamy,
                                  let the underdog win, 
                                      defeat the foe before the last page, 
                                          and, 
                                                well, 
                                                     you have the idea.  

But...

    What if--


    -- a story had an affluent, proper English young lady sailing a solo maiden voyage across the sea to join her family in America, who chooses to transform into a calloused, mutinous sailor? 

Hmmmmm...not likely? Definitely a dust collector? Unworthy of publication?


Well...


    What if --

   --the story had been crafted by a writing artist who painted an intriguing plot, 3D characters, and a vivid setting, might the idea work? 

Perhaps.

In the skilled hands of author Avi, sweet Charlotte traded her

prim and proper, white gloved, hooped skirt, 
speak only at certain times manners

for 

swabbin' starboard decks in pants, anchorin' the gasket, 
and scaling rigging in the middle of thunderstorms alongside mutineers


in the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle


Avi crafted his novel to compel readers to wish for, yea, hope for the perfect ending. As pages turn, readers know what the ending should be but doubt any author would have the guts to write the perfect-unbelievable dream ending. After all, who'd, in their right mind would transform an upper class young lady into a scruffy, sunburned sailor with thick callouses embedded into her once satin soft skin? 

Avi not only enticed readers to believe and desire the unbelievable; he won the Newberry nomination for his work.  Perhaps the unbelievable can be believed--when crafted in a believable way.


Do you have examples of unusually believable stories? What gripped your attention and caused you to stay with the story to the end?


What if your story stood in a courtroom.  The prosecutor accuses, "This work is not believable!" Would the evidence presented by your characters, setting, and plot acquit your book?