(I’m also not trying to sound like Galadriel.)
For those of us writing fiction (which I think most of us here???), we are writing just that. Fiction. Fake stuff. Make believe. Unicorns and dragons and hob goblins.
And everybody knows it. Readers pick up your book and think, “This is a novel. Nothing in here is real or actually happened.” (Historical fiction gets iffy, but you know what I mean.)
So, a writer says back to the reader, “Here’s a book. It’s not true, but I’ll write you a good one as long as you are willing to believe it’s true.”
And that is the key. Good fiction feels real. But in order for the reader to believe it’s real, the writer must first believe it’s real. We must believe.
(This is all getting a little dramatic. Let’s tone it down a notch.)
I think most writers don’t have problems with believing in their stories. (We certainly at least believe in our characters.) But the thing is we have to believe in order to write confidently.
I noticed this particularly when I read Jurassic Park and Andromeda Strain (both by Michael Crichton).
In both of these Crichton writes as if the events really happened and as if the people really exist. He does this by using specifics. Crichton doesn’t just say, “Here’s Dr. So and So.” No. Crichton writes how Dr. S and So graduated from this university, one this award in this year, published this article in this magazine in this year, etc. Crichton does this with everyone. He does it with places and organizations. He gives everything specifications as if they were real. Putting a price on scientific equipment. Giving exact locations, etc.
IT MAKES YOU REALLY WONDER IF IT’S REAL.
Writing that way helps convince the reader to believe, because the author seems so convinced themselves. Obviously everyone has different styles of writing – but I do think it’s in the details.
Give your world details. You know how if you are the detective in a mystery and you’re interviewing a suspect? You know how to tell they are lying? It’s the details. Tiny details they don’t mention, get wrong, or forget to say. The tiny details are what show when a person is lying.
Well, if there are gaps in your story and your world, the reader will know. They won’t be convinced that it’s real.
You get what I’m saying? You got to write as if your world is real, and you’ve got to put that into practice with the details.