Verisimilitude (What is THAT?)

ver·i·si·mil·i·tude

NOUN

1. appearance of being true: the appearance of being true or real

2. something that only seems true: something that only appears to be true or real, e.g. a statement that is not supported by evidence

Well, isn’t that what we all strive to achieve when we write our little stories? We are, in fact, liars. And if we are good liars readers will give up their disbelief and “buy” the story we are presenting to them.

But it isn’t as easy as it would seem, is it? There is a secret to getting the reader involved with your writing. It is difficult to do, but it comes with practice and if you have talent you will find the way to create verisimilitude. One of the ways is to make your characters seem real. Make them so real that a reader will associate someone who is “really” real, dead or alive, with your character. Make them have common faults, make them react happily or sadly and maybe both at the same time. Give them bad habits, but if you have constructed them correctly the reader will overlook those because they also have bad habits and they don’t want their friends bitching to them about it.

One of the most common faults of young, new, or inexperienced authors that is guaranteed to defeat verisimilitude is to “tell” the story instead of “showing” the story. I find that a common mistake in newly formed writers. So how does one accomplish “showing” instead of “telling?”

Telling: John picked up the gun and killed Sally.

Showing: Oh, God. How had it come to this? The smoke from the .38’s barrel curled up and stung his nose. His hand was shaking and he almost dropped the revolver. If she had just been honest with him. What a waste, what a shame. And now, the police would come. They would take him away and sometime in the far future he would spend the rest of his life in a cold, dark cell. John reached down and folded Sally’s arms over her chest. Through his tears she seemed so still. How could the happy-go-lucky woman he had loved be so still, just from one small black hole in her forehead?

I believe you could visualize John standing over the body of a woman whom he had just murdered, but not once did I say, “John picked up the gun and killed Sally.” That, my writer friend, is verisimilitude. Sure, it takes more words to infer something than to come right out and “tell us just the facts, mam.” But it is that difference between a novel that keeps the reader turning pages (to see what happens to John and to find out why he killed Sally) and one who just tells the story. Read any good novelist you choose and you will find his or her work crammed with “verisimilitude.”

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About johnbeckmanbooks

John Beckman, a retired meteorologist, was known as “Johnny the Weatherman” in a career that spanned forty years. He forecasted the weather on WSJS-TV in Winston-Salem, NC, at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville, FL, and for thirty-three years in Atlanta at WSB-TV and WXIA-TV. Also a well published author Beckman now devotes full time to writing fiction. He currently has several eBooks on Amazon.com, "Tropical Knights," first in a series of adventure/mysteries about a sailor and his lovely CIA cohort on a mission to save America. Now available the sequel, and second in the series: "Tropical Daze." The third Jack & Amy adventure is "Tropical Rage" which became available on 30 April 2014. All of his books are highlighted on http://johnbeckmanbooks.com and available from Amazon.com. . .
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