Being a Better Writer: Realism, Storytelling, and Suspension of Disbelief

Welcome back writers! It’s another Monday, and that means it’s time for another Being a Better Writer post! There’s not much news to discuss, or really any since everything immediately relevant was discussed in last Thursday’s post about what occurred last year and what’s coming down the pipeline right now, so rather than spend any text on that, today we’ll just dive right in! With a brief aside to say that if you are curious about what’s happened and what’s on the way, check out that post.

Anyway, today’s topic is, fittingly enough for the new year, a Reader Request! The last one on Topic List #21. Which I will add is getting a bit empty these days. We’ll be looking at #22 soon enough!

But anyway, today’s topic was requested with what I see as darn good reason, because it’s actually part of an almost endless debate that circles online communities and critics alike. In fact, it’s such a common debate that to start us off today, I’m actually going to request that you read this Schlock Mercenary strip, which will open in a new tab. Don’t worry, it’s digestible without context.

Once you’ve done that, don’t get sucked into the archive (at least, not right now), but come back, hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Balancing Readers’ Suspension of Disbelief

“Go! Go! Go!” Natalie didn’t need to be told twice. With the clock ticking, the building was only minutes from coming apart in a blast that would level half the block. If she could get away before then, she had a chance, but if not …

“Go!” the voice in her ear shouted once more.

“I’m going!” she snapped, crouching by the body of the colonel and retrieving his sidearm. Some of his thugs could still be standing between her and the exit.

“Natalie, you need to be moving, and I don’t hear you moving!”

“I’m busy, Jerry,” she muttered. “Maybe you could be useful for once and tell me how to get out of here rather than just screaming in a panic?”

She checked the pistol’s clip. Six shots. It would have to be enough. She rose, grabbing the colonel’s bag and swinging it over her shoulder. She couldn’t save the building … but at least she’d save the gold. Two-and-a-half million dollars worth of gold would set her up for life.

Gold and handgun secure, she began running down the hall, no destination in mind other than away from the bomb ticking down behind her. Her heels sounded out a rapid, staccato rhythm with her steps as she exited the hall into the penthouse atrium.

A loud bang was the only warning she got as the glass near her shattered, a bullet tearing through it. She ducked, crouching as the gunman—one of the colonel’s—continued to spray bullets in her direction.

She didn’t have time to play around. She lifted the colonel’s handgun, made a quick estimation based on the direction the bullets were flying from, and fired off a rapid trio of blind shots.

The gunfire stopped, her assailant either dead or dying, and she bolted back to a sprint.


“Kind of busy right now!” she shot back as another gunman opened fire. She fired on the move, spitting several bullets back at him. How long was left before the bomb went off? She wasn’t sure.

“I’ve got a way out,” Jerry continued, heedless of her warning or the shots whizzing past her head. How many men did the colonel have? “You need to get to the elevators. The cars themselves are locked, but you can ride the cable down to the ground floor.

“Too long,” she said, firing again and scoring a direct hit on one of her attackers. They fell with a scream. “What’s outside?”

“What?” Jerry asked as she fired again, downing another mercenary.

“What’s outside?” she asked. “If I jump out of the building—”

“Jump out? Are you insane?”

“What’s outside!?” she demanded, crouching behind a couch as more gunfire tore the expensive leather apart.

“Cars? A parking lot? The reflecting pool? A—”

What side is the pool on?” she shouted as she returned fire, the gun kicking against her hand. Another gunman went down.

“Uh … West side!”

“Got it!” That was the side she was on. She rose form her hiding place, sprinting towards the glass wall, firing on the move. The glass splintered, her view of the setting sun suddenly awash with physical static.

She hit the window at a sprint, glass shattering around her as she fell into open space. She could see the wading pool below her, rushing up at impossibly fast speeds. Ten stories passed in a heartbeat.

She hit with a wet slap, stinging pain erupting across her entire body as she sank into the pool. Her feet touched bottom, and she kicked upwards, her head breaking the surface. How much time was left before the bomb went off? She brought her wrist up, checking her watch and—

Ducked seconds before a faint whump swept through the water, rattling her body like a child’s toy. Seconds later something large and heavy splashed down in the pool, sinking through the water past her, and she kicked off, swimming forward as quickly as she could.

Gradually the rumbling slowed, and she broke the surface again, standing in the pool. Of the ten-story penthouse the colonel had been using for his scheme, all that remained was a pile of twisted wreckage. His scheme was finished.

She almost sat down in the water with relief. It was over. And … She checked the bag still slung across her shoulder.

Two-and-a-half million dollars worth of gold bars glimmered back at her.

Okay, did anyone see anything wrong with all that?

Continue reading