I write fiction. By its very definition fiction is “not real.” Fiction is a story, and if it is good and entertaining it has served its purpose. But when you buy a book, there is an implied contract between the writer and the reader. The writer has done his or her best to provide you with good fiction, a good “story,” but it’s not real so to enjoy it you must suspend your disbelief. You must identify with the characters, and root for the good guys and hope the bad guys get their comeuppance.
All of this depends on you suspending your disbelief. I recently had a reviewer of one of my novels write something like (I’ll paraphrase) “The CIA has a young girl enlist some old guy who hasn’t had any military experience in thirty years to go into Cuba and do away with some imaginary missile that Castro is supposed to use to destroy DC. It doesn’t pass the laugh test.”
Well, of course not, you idiot, if you take the story at its face value. If you look at it as a factual report in the National Review or the Weekly Standard, of course it is nonsense. But it is FICTION! This guy didn’t do his part. He didn’t suspend his disbelief. If he had, he might have enjoyed a “story” that wasn’t real but has lots of action and adventure in it.
I actually feel sorry for this man. How can he get enjoyment out of some of the really great fiction novels. Would he take a Tom Clancy spy novel, or a John Updike mystery, or “War and Peace” apart and go to some lengths to show that those works aren’t “true?”
I think every novel ever written has a disclaimer right on the fly leaf. “This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, businesses, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”
I guess the reviewer must have skipped this page in his rush to prove what a phony book he had read. He didn’t do his part. It’s FICTION, you fool, not a news report!