Advice, Characters, Craft, Fiction, Reader, Tips, Writing

From tie poes to fictive dreaming, what’s the connection?

Last Thursday’s post on Tie Poes was not just self-serving. That topic connects to Sunday’s post on fictive dreaming, which is the ideal state for both the writer to be in while writing and the reader to be in while reading. One of the main reasons I hate typos in my writing is because each time the reader catches one, they are jerked out of the story. They are wakened from their fictive dream. When this happens to me as a reader, I stop, reread to straighten out the kink, and then, though I read on, for the next few seconds a bit of my brain stays stuck on that error. Fictive dream good. Typographical errors bad.

toaster2sAs a reader, I’m also often pulled out of the story by impossibility. And today, I’m not talking about the big things that make you close the book forever … or throw it across the room. I mean the little things, like having a character put bread in the toaster and three lines of dialogue later, she’s already buttering toast. Something like that is certainly not enough to make me put the book down, but it’s a reminder that I’m sitting there with a book in my hands. None of this is really happening. I’d rather stay immersed in the story, lost in the world the writer created. I want transparency in the writing.

I’d like to say I’ve never written one of these little bugaboos, but since this post is non-fiction, I can’t. But because they are one of my pet peeves, I spend a lot of my writing time with my eyes closed. I like to visualize my character in action, so I can “see” that he’s still holding that tea kettle and therefore can’t pick up the cat with both hands.

I even spend a portion of it on my feet, speaking lines of dialogue as I cross the room to see at just what point I would reach for the doorknob. Sometimes I cheat a bit, I have the world’s slowest toaster—I could speak six pages of dialogue before my toast popped up—but I try to come close to realism.

Of course, it’s all right to expect the reader to assume some actions. If the character is driving somewhere, I don’t need a play-by-play of every turn of the steering wheel along the way. But I can’t ignore that your protagonist has just prepared lasagna from start to finish in the time it took to discuss the day’s weather. And I’ll roll my eyes if you describe a scene where a kid has just turned his iPod up to 11, but then overhears his parents’ conversation three rooms away.

Likewise, unless the book is fantasy, if the protagonist lives in Indianapolis and supports the local professional baseball team … well that’s sloppy research, and I just might send that book sailing across the room.


26 thoughts on “From tie poes to fictive dreaming, what’s the connection?”

  1. I try to be as “realistic” as possible in my fiction. In my second novel, I go back in time into the childhood of one of my adult characters in the first novel. In other words, I put the cart before the horse. Since I hope that some readers will read both of my books, I have to watch the timing of the events between the first and the second work. This has been quite a challenge, it would’ve been easier to write the earlier novel first, but things just happened to develop that way. After reading through the manuscript of the second novel, the one that takes place before the first one, I noticed that my young girls use cell phones. Of course I had to change that, since at that time, kids didn’t run around with cell phones.

    As author, you have the freedom to create characters as well the places where they live. It’s perfectly all right to make up a town or city. If you describe a real city, though, then you should of course be as exact as possible. I have to admit that I cheated a little in my work-in-progress, which takes place in part in Zurich, Switzerland. I moved the art store to a slightly different place, which fits my story better. That’s poetic freedom, as far as I’m concerned. I probably mention it in the introduction, just in case some picky Swiss from Zurich wants to complain.

    That brings me to The Brevity of Roses. I live California as well and I travel quite a bit up the coast from Santa Monica to the Bay area, either on 101 or up north on Highway One. So, when I read “Bahía de Sueños” and “Coelho,” I was trying to figure out where those towns were. I know there is a Bahía de Sueños in Baja California, but that couldn’t be it, because Renee drives from Sacramento to Los Angeles and gets held up in that town, so it has to be somewhere between Sacramento and L. A. along 101. I never heard of those towns before. I searched for them on the Internet and on some maps, but no success. Then it dawned on me you may have made them up or give them different names “to protect the guilty.” Or do they exist?


    1. Yes, it’s the little things that can trip you up, Christa. I’ve done a lot of internet searching to see if particular products were available in certain years. I’ve also used real life cities but created a fictional restaurant or park or such.

      Coelho and Bahía de Sueños are both fictional. There are elements of each based on real towns, Bahia more so than Coelho, but neither is meant to be identified as any real California town. One of my critique partners was sure Bahia was a town she knew and I had just changed the name.


  2. I do read my dialogue out loud, but I love the notion of reading it while looking in a mirror! I’m also combining pieces of the little East and Gulf coast towns I love into my current setting and hoping it will look and feel somewhat familiar to some readers, and realistic and wanna-visit to the rest.

    Linda: do you actually own this toaster? (I know, I know – I’m obsessing here. It’s what writers do.)


    1. I think that’s part of the meaning behind “write what you know”, Natasha. If a place, person, or thing is familiar to you, I think it’s easier to make it real for the reader, even if you make changes.

      No, I don’t own that toaster. Would you buy it from me if I did? 😉


  3. Yeah, continuity and accuracy are a must for me. My editor at Rhemalda is really good about catching this stuff, but it’s also the author’s responsibility, as well. With both working on it, hopefully my fiction won’t have errors like this at all. 🙂


  4. My copy of Brevity is “In Transit”. I hope that it will be here by the weekend so I can sit by the rose garden with Margarita in one hand, book in the other, and head propped again hubbies shoulder.

    I’ve been thinking (too much as always) about being pulled out of the story and where my writing stands. I don’t think my writing is there — yet. Now I must figure out why. Any suggestions?


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