Wednesday, November 23, 2011

If You Wrote It No One Would Believe It

Fiction writers want to create believable plots. It's called suspension of disbelief. Writing 101. Readers know the difference between plots that work and those that don't. If the plot isn't believable, they will put the book down, never to pick it up again.

Life, it's been said, is stranger than fiction. Sometimes life provides plots that are not believable.


Here's a plot line. You tell me if it is believable or not. A dysfunctional loner with immature, radical views decides to assassinate the President of the United States. He ends up high in a building in Dallas. With a $39.95 bolt action, inaccurate WWII rifle and a poorly fitted scope, he fires three quick rounds (or was it four?) and achieves his goal. The President is dead. The fatal round is miraculously found (after an improbable ballistic journey) in pristine condition on the gurney bearing the President to the hospital. Tests prove it came from the assassin's rifle. Shortly thereafter, the assassin himself is killed while in police custody.

Films and eyewitness accounts raise many questions, quickly dismissed. A special government commission finds that the assassin acted alone. The records are sealed. Over the next two years a long list of people in some way connected to the assassination are found dead. Suicide. Accident. Heart attack. Disease. Murder. Drug overdose. No one is left to question. Other high profile troublemakers are assassinated, changing the face of American politics. Lone assassins are identified, once again.

If you wrote that, would you believe it? A better question is if you wrote that how would you bring the plot to resolution? What would be revealed?

Pictures of trucks parked in the desert are presented to a world body as proof of Weapons of Mass Destruction (capital letters are intentional) by a man fully respected and, it turns out, misinformed. Some might even say, a patsy. An unprovoked war begins, with ongoing disastrous consequences for everyone except some people who become very, very wealthy. How would you write that one? Probably a bad example, since it is way too believable.

How about this one? A man from a foreign country which is not our friend plots to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the US. He decides to use the Mexican Mob to help him do the job. He jaunts off to Mexico. He hires a hit man who will help him. Oops! The hit man turns out to be an informant for the DEA. A sting provides lots and lots of incriminating evidence. Sabers start rattling, once again.

What are the odds of picking exactly the wrong guy out of all the possible choices? If you wrote that, would you believe it? I write thrillers. If I wrote that, I'd be ashamed of myself. I can think of at least a dozen better ways to pull it off, especially with the backing of a hostile government and its resources. If I wrote it, the target would be toast. It would be believable.

Want some more plot ideas? The economy goes down in flames. Massive amounts of money are needed to avoid disaster. Okay, that's believable. But no one is held to account. The same people responsible for the meltdown guard the financial henhouse and "advise" the President on the economy. The economy continues to burn.

That's a lousy plot. If you wrote that, would you believe it?

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I were debating writing a novel about OWS and the players involved, but when it came right down to it, truth is more mystifying than fiction and nothing seems to fit. Enjoyed your blog. Would you be interested in an exchange in ebooks to review?


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