Last night I mentioned to my wife, Kim, that I was going to post an entry on the website titled Reality vs Fiction. Her response was, “There’s a difference?” I immediately launched into the differences, and when about halfway through, she turned to me and said, “Joe, I was kidding.”
Well, yes, there is a difference. One makes sense, and the other, at times, doesn’t.
I met my wife in California when we ended up at the same school. She taught PE/Health and was the head softball coach, and I was a counselor. It turned out that both of us were from Wisconsin and moved to California in the same year. But there was more weirdness to it. I am approximately ten years older than Kim. I went to a coed boarding school for my high school years, and the school was ten miles from her house- exactly. And her mom’s best friend was a friend of the sister I dated while I was in high school. Kim’s mom also babysat for a guy who worked for my older brother as a teacher and athletic director in a town close by.
Now, if I put all of that into one of my books, the reader would have a hard time believing it. In fact, I’m guessing you might have a hard time believing what I wrote. But it is all true. Every word.
You see, reality differs from fiction because of all the twists and turns that take place, or the weirdness of life, as I call it. There are times things happen in life that just make little sense. Life is sometimes not orderly, no matter how hard we try to make it. Stuff happens and we have no control over it. None.
In fiction, the writer can get away with only so much. There has to be plausible cause and effect. There has to be an orderly process. The author has to lead the reader in a direction that makes sense. The story can’t get too far out there, or the reader will have trouble suspending their belief.
Think of the novel, Old Man and the Sea. I’m not a fisherman by any means. I have no interest in it. I might sit in the boat and read a book, but I won’t fish. I know enough about fishing that catching a marlin is difficult. Given the man’s age and the equipment at his disposal, catching this fish is going to be a struggle. But I don’t have to be a fisherman to understand and “believe” in the story. I don’t have to suspend my belief that much. I’m doubtful to be sure, but I trust the author to know there is more to this story than the man and the fish.
Think of the novel, Lord of the Flies. A plane full of kids from a military/boarding school crash on an island. The only living adult dies from injuries. The kids are left to fend for themselves. Two boys die tragically, and a third is hunted. The reader plays along, belief is suspended, because the story is good. Survival.
In my book, Betrayed, George receives a late-night phone call from a friend. Her brother and George’s friend is missing. A decision is made by George’s parents: George can go help search for Rebecca’s brother because that is his homeland, and IF his two brothers, Brian and Brett, go to support him, and IF two family friends who are cops, Pat O’Connor and Jamie Graff, travel along with the three boys. The parents, Graff and O’Connor do not know what is in store. George wants to help Rebecca find her brother, his friend. The two men see it as an opportunity to help George and his parents out, and Brian and Brett see it as a hunting trip. Both boys are experienced hunters, having hunted together with Graff and O’Connor on multiple occasions.
The reader can follow along comfortably at this point. A trip west to hunt and to help find George’s friend. Sounds innocent enough.
Once they arrive, the two cops link up with an FBI agent. On the Navajo Nation reservation, the FBI is the official law enforcement agency even though there is the Navajo Nation Police.
Again, the reader is comfortable. The reader doesn’t have to travel too far out of his or her comfort zone.
Now, once the cops and the boys arrive on the reservation, they separate. Brian and Brett, and George and Rebecca encounter a bit of trouble. Graff and O’Connor find there is more to the boy’s disappearance than they first suspected. Cellphones don’t work that well, so Brian and Brett are further separated from George and Rebecca, who traveled into the mountains where the missing boy liked to hunt. They suspect the boy got hurt and couldn’t make it back home. Graff and O’Connor don’t know exactly where the Brian and Brett are, and things go downhill rapidly.
There is a logical sequence of events in Betrayed. The reader trusts me, the author, so the reader can suspend their belief comfortably. I’m not too far out there. There is enough explanation, and enough circumstance that aligns with life. As I said, so far, there is logic. The reader might shake their head and wonder about the parents letting their kids make a trip of this distance. The reader might wonder about some choices the kids make. But the story is laid out for them logically.
Sometimes, life doesn’t happen neatly. Life can be untidy. Sometimes, there isn’t a rhyme nor a reason for the “stuff” that happens in life. We understand life because we live it.
Books, especially works of fiction, transport us to different worlds. Books transport us to different cultures. Yet, those books, fiction, have to have logic. There has to be a plausible explanation. The reader not only has to be willing to “play along” with the author, but buy into the words and the actions of the characters. The reader is generally willing to suspend belief . . . up to a point. Once that point is met, all bets are off. At that point, the story succeeds or fails depending upon the setup, the plausibility and the reliability.
A Maxie Award Finalist for Mystery/Suspense!
A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!
A Reader’s Favorite Recommended Read!
“Betrayed is at once an emotional chapter in author Joseph Lewis’ continuing coming-of-age story and an intriguing thriller. A layered story that explodes into a bullet-riddled climax.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, and the hunters become the hunted.