My work in progress, a tongue-in-cheek apocalyptic adventure, is metamorphosing into a horror story. I study my words trying to figure out where I went wrong, but they seem to be behaving properly. Does this mean that I am losing control of my story? No. The problem is in the details.
Plausibility in a story depends on the accumulation of consistent, accurate details. Those details are even more important for a fantasy than they are for other types of books, such as police procedurals. An author of a police procedural can summarize or even skip some of the boring details. After all, any person who reads crime novels, follows detective shows on television, or watches documentaries about modern forensic techniques knows many details of a criminal investigation, and can fill in the blanks. For example, early police procedurals gave details about taking fingerprints from a suspect, but today most readers know how fingerprints are taken, probably even had one taken for a driver’s license, so few authors waste words on that particular detail.
On the other hand, only the author of a fantasy knows all the details of his or her world. For those details to seem real, the characters must act consistently with their history, experiences, and psychological profiles.
Although I might find it incongruous and therefore amusing to have a saber-tooth lion spring out of a dark alley in modern Denver, the character experiencing this is not amused. To him, it is unimaginable horror; therefore, to the reader who is experiencing the world through the eyes of the character, it is also horror. A character who finds an attacking saber-tooth lion to be funny is not a believable character, unless somehow I can make the reader believe that the character will react in such a way, which still proves that plausibility is in the details.
Since I am writing to my specifications and not to a publisher’s, it does not matter whether I am writing humor or horror. That the details are consistent and accurate within my story world does matter, and of that, I am in control.
Summer is coming to a close way too fast and I will soon return to school. After nineteen years of teaching math, this year I have the opportunity to teach...