Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Had occasion to cause my bad guy in the current book-in-progress to murder somebody today. Darted him with a paralysis needle, hooked a weight to his ankle and shoved him out the door of a hovering vehicle twenty meters to the ocean below, and AMF.

The interesting part for me, was getting the research right. 

Now, as I've explained more than once, the truth isn't nearly as important in fiction writing as making the reader go with what you've said in the context of the story. It doesn't have to be true, it has to sound true.

Remember the loon in England some years back who went to visit the Queen? True story: He hopped the fence at the palace, walked right in, went up and down halls until he found her bedroom, then went in and sat on the foot of her bed to have a little chat. He was crazy, but harmless, and eventually somebody came along and noticed him there and had him hauled away. 

But: At every turn where he should have been seen and stopped, something happened. I disremember the fine details, but the essence of it was, it was a long run of coincidences, along these lines:

When he hopped the fence, the camera watching that stretch was down.

The palace door that was supposed to be locked and guarded was unlocked and the guard had gone to take a leak. 

The interior security somehow didn't see the guy for however long it took him to locate the Queen's bedroom. 

When he got there, the Queen, alone in her room, buzzed for help, but her call button malfunctioned or whoever was listening was on break.

So there were like five coincidences that happened to allow the guy to get to his long chat with Elizabeth Regina, any one of which should have been enough to stop him. 

If you wrote that scenario in a fiction story, nobody would buy it. C'mon. One coincidence, I'll give you. Maybe, if you are clever, two. Five? Nope, sorry. Even if it happened that way, I won't buy it. 

Because truth is no defense in fiction. Say it again with me: Truth is no defense in fiction.

And yet, when you write the stuff, you want to get as much of it right as you can, just in case somebody decides to check, because sometimes they will. If you just toss something off and it's wrong and you get caught out? That reader or readers won't trust you from then on. You don't want that. You want to gull them so that if they check nine things and they are spot-on, they might not check the tenth one that you did get wrong. 

Before I could have my villain shove his poorly-performing henchman out the flying car's door, I had to find a deep hole in the ocean's floor, so that when I offered that there was one in the vicinity, there, in fact, is. 

Then there was the amount of weight tied to the guy to pull him under. Doesn't take much if the guy is unconscious or dead. Soon as the air leaves his lungs, he sinks; however, after a certain amount of ... fermenting goes on in the corpse, it is possible that the gases produced will be enough, some days later, to lift the body to the surface even with a weight tied to it. 

Or the leg could rot off and the rest of it eventually bob right on up ...

Too much information? Well, I didn't put it all in, but I needed to know it so my villain could address the notion, to show that he was a careful killer. 

It's the little things that sell a story sometimes, and if you get those right, you probably will get the big things right. 


Dan Moran said...

I think you can get away with the Big Coincidence as a piece of the story, you just can't hang any load-bearing story stuff on it. It can start a story, or use it as amusing detail along the way, but once the story's underway you'd have a hard, possibly impossible, time using it as a major structural element.

Jay Gischer said...

Very small nit to pick, maybe this illustrates your point, even.

Wouldn't it be "Elizabeth Regina", not "Elizabeth Rex"?

Steve Perry said...

Point taken, and correct ... Regina ...