Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Don't Break the Glass

Sarah is wondering why you stopped reading?

Etymology can be both fun and frustrating.  Fictional writers get to do pretty much whatever they want—provided they don’t break the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.

That’s the trick.

Recently, I reviewed a draft blurb for another author who used a line similar to this:

When Sarah and George touch, they can cause great destruction, ruin buildings, or build them back up.

Nothing inherently wrong with that.  It reads like a young adult, superhero genre story in a contemporary setting.

Except it’s not.

George knows why you stopped, and doesn't care.
The author explained the setting—outside of the blurb—as a story set 90,000 years ago.  Understand, she’d done her due-diligence—Sarah is Biblical and means “princess” while George comes from the Greek Georgos and means farmer.

The problem with this is Sarah and George are common, contemporary names, and with no other clues as to the setting, they don’t speak to an ancient fantasy-type story.  As the writer who has done all the research on names and dates and so forth, this is all justified.  The problem comes when a reader picks up the book expecting a coming-of-age story (with superpowers!) and gets a fantasy-themed tale about a princess and a farmer.

Despite advances in technology, writers still can’t address every reader’s concerns as they read through the story.

So while the reader must supply a willing suspension of disbelief, the writer must take every measure to not break that trust—even if it means changing the heavily researched names of the characters.

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