Believability in Fiction

Are you confused by what believability means when writing fiction? I for one, don't fully get it.

Why does fiction have to be believable? It's untrue. It's our imaginations and who's to say what we or others think is believable?

How can you write a story about talking animals and make any of it believable? And yet, there are millions of books out there with talking animals. I recently saw an article that said when writing with talking animals you must make sure what happens in the story is something that kids can relate to. To me, that is contradictory. A kid can relate to an animal talking but can't relate to a story about an animal who is running a newspaper office. Why? Because that animal is an adult. I was informed by an instructor in a class I took, that the main character should never be an adult.

But so many of the great fairy tales from long ago were written with the main protagonist as an adult. For instance, Beauty and the Beast, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Dragon Painter and the Emperors New Clothes just to name a few.

In another class, I wrote a story about a talking dog. The teacher had no problems with that but then told me the way the dog interracted with the cat, wasn't believable. Huh? 

I know that publishers don't like it when animals talk to people so I stay away from that as much as possible. However, I recently had a story published Kailee Finds Magic IN Words where a chipmunk is talking to the little girl. However, I explained in the book that the chipmunk could only talk because he was inside the book and the author wrote it that way. The publisher accepted that reasoning.

But one thing I have learned is whenever I have talking animals in a story, I write them so they can only talk to other animals. When they talk to humans, it's in animal verbage.

This to me falls in the lines with believability as well. It's ok to have a person turn into a monkey, but not to have that monkey talk to a person?? I'm really confused with this.

So, I've just learned to write as I see it. If someone questions it, then it probably is an indication that others will too and especially a publisher, so I normally change it.

That's why it's so important to have your work edited by someone who is an expert in the genre you're writing for and to also be a member of a critique group. It's amazing the things they can help you with. They sometimes catch things you yourself would have never caught. Therefore, that's one more step closer to getting the story right and finding a publisher.

But...I'm still confused about what's believable when writing fiction and what isn't. So if any of you have some words of wisdom that can help clear it up for me, please speak up or forever hold your peace!


  1. I once had a reviewer get kind of nasty (and she didn't even read my book) because she said something in the description of my book wasn't believable. Um, I write paranormal. My characters are necromancers. That means they can do things real humans can't. ;) I was tempted to comment back to this person and explain that my book is in no way a true story, but I let it go because I figure most people will understand that paranormal stretches the bounds of reality.

    1. Yah, that's about all you can do when someone posts a review, that isn't already an author you know. But to say a paranormal isn't believable...well dah!

  2. I think there are too many misconceptions on what is believable and what is not by adults not kids. Kids have wonderful imaginations that can take them anywhere, anytime, and let them meet talking animals, aliens, and monsters.

  3. I think adults don't really know what is believable to a child. We get so stuck in this real world stuff, that we can't see our imagination like we used to. If a child can believe in a talking animal, or a flying dragon, then what's to say what is not believable until you try it.

    1. So true, Courtney. Sometimes I think the adults who are looking at our little kids stories, want them to sound more grown up then they need to be! But that's just me.