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BELIEVE IN YOUR STORYBy author Anne McCaffrey
A writer, as Gordon R. Dickson frequently said at the Milford Writers' Workshops, must have a knowledge of what's in every drawer, closet, on every shelf in a room he describes, whether or not he opens the drawers or doors at all during the course of the scene. But he must know. And he must believe he knows for the duration of the story.
You must have occasionally read a book that annoyed you for some indefinable reason: It may be that the writer did not totally believe what he was writing. That disbelief comes across to the reader, making him/her uncomfortable indeed, and destroying any other factors the writer may have had working in his favor.
One of the reasons the westerns of Louis L'Amour are so immensely popular is that he is known to have walked any area he used in one of his novels, known it so intimately that he could tell when a boulder or a pebble had been moved. This knowledge comes through to the reader and enhances his/her confidence in the author. Granted we can't all do such on-the-spot investigation, but we can research pertinent details and believe in what we're saying. It isn't so much a "suspension of disbelief" as insurance that you will be believed. What is the cynical saying--"Believe you're telling the truth, even if you're lying about it?"
My stock tool in trade is the use of emotion--which also requires that you believe in the emotion you are portraying so strongly that it transcends the many procedures that take a book from manuscript through the finished product on the bookstore shelves.
When I wrote the scene in The Ship Who Sang in which my heroine has to watch, helpless, while her beloved partner dies, I had in my mind my father's burial, and to this day I cannot read the last four paragraphs without choking up and weeping. When I killed off Moreta in the eponymous Pern novel, I was weeping because I had had to put down my beloved grey gelding, Mr. Ed.
We all must have those moments of high tragedy and personal frustration, anger, or hilarious humor (the latter being in very short supply in most lives), and we can translate those into the material we wish to enhance with an emotional content. But the writer has to be so immersed in those emotions, believe in them so firmly, that they reach the reader!
I have always believed in Pern. I enjoy going there: I enjoy poking holes in its complacency and seeing what happens to the people nearest the holes. I am comfortable with Pern. I know a lot more about it on an instinctive or intuitive level than even my most devoted reader. I keep lists of all kinds of things about my characters and my places.
As long as you believe in them, you can convince your reader that the circumstances are valid for the course of the story. But you must deeply, sincerely, madly believe in what you are writing as you write, or the whole thing will fall flat on its face.