An interesting discussion thread has been going on in the LinkedIn book marketing group that I founded and manage about how women are portrayed in fiction.
One part of the discussion focuses on readers (mostly male although some female) who do not react positively to seeing women portrayed in roles that have traditionally been male.
Obviously I am not one of these negative readers as I am a long-standing feminist.
Yet I truly believe that verisimilitude (according to Wikipedia the quality of realism) is very important in fiction.
The March 22nd episode of the new ABC drama MISSING is an example of how blowing verisimilitude can turn off a potential fiction fan.
In MISSING Ashley Judd stars as a former CIA field agent searching for her kidnapped son in Europe. I have seen Ashley Judd in action films before, and I totally accept her fictional character’s ability to do all kinds of things, including shimmying up the outside of two or three floors of a high security building in Paris.
Here, though, is where the lack of verisimilitude caused both my husband and myself to say we would not watch the show again:
Scenario: Ashley Judd’s character is trading someone to the bad guys in exchange for her kidnapped son. She feels badly about giving up the guy to the bad guys but she has to save her son.
For the exchange on an empty bridge in broad daylight her hooded son is brought out of the bad guys’ car.
Ashley Judd’s character knows how bad the head bad guy is. Does she say to the head bad guy: “Take off the hood – I want to make sure it is my son”? Or does she say to her son: “Michael, let me hear your voice”?
No. She simply pushes the guy to be traded towards the bad guy while her son in handcuffs walks towards her.
Then she starts shooting the bad guys.
When asked later by the guy to be traded how she knew it wasn’t her son, she explains her son once broke an ankle that makes him walk a tiny bit differently, something only a mother would notice.
Bang! I’m out of there. No one – and I mean no one – whether trained by the CIA or with no training would make an exchange for a hooded person without seeing the person unhooded.
Verisimilitude flew out the window and so did my watching this show.
And the thing is, the writers of the show could have stretched a little more and come up with a plausible reason for the gun fight at the exchange without making Ashley Judd’s character look as if she were an idiot.
The challenge to all of us writers of fiction is to be realistic wherever we can in our storytelling so that, when we do stretch reality, our fans will accept this “exaggeration.”
What are your thoughts about the importance of verisimilitude in fiction?
(c) 2012 Miller Mosaic LLC
Her screenplay DR. SOAPY can be downloaded for FREE at Amazon Studios at http://studios.amazon.com/projects/8259 (and follows the requirements of verisimilitude). And the techno-thriller ebook LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS she wrote with her husband can be downloaded for FREE from Amazon’s Kindle store.