Following from Cara's blog last week, I was thinking about how we have to put totally believable characters into a make-believe world.
The headlines in the newspapers are usually all doom and gloom, but our little pocket novels are fairy stories where everything turns out right in the end. But not the fairy stories of Grimm or Hans Anderson, which are sometimes really dark, because we have to stay on the light side, even if our protagonists are faced with life-changing traumas. Fairy stories, according to my dictionary, are made-up stories designed to mislead. So how do we make them real?
Our hero must be charismatic, good-looking, and have a few flaws to make him human; the main storyline can be funny or poignant; but our heroine has to grab our hearts from the first moment we meet her. How much of ourselves we put into this creaure depends on the story, but she has to be believable.
Many years ago I read a chapter of a novel I was in the process of completing, to a writing group. My main character had been sexually abused as a child and everyone in the writing circle thought I was describing myself. It was a bit embarrassing because no one would believe I had made it all up and I got sympathetic looks for weeks afterwards, but it proves my character must have been totally believable, and that is all that matters.
Our stories don't have to be factual, we write fiction, but our readers have to believe every word we write. They have to believe there are gorgeous men out there who will fall head-over-heels in love with them, and they have to believe there will always be a happy-ever-after ending. That is what writing a pocket novel is all about.