So what if this world was actually real? Just for a moment, imagine it...
If the world of ‘Alien’ was real, imagine the extreme vetting program that would take place to select these extraordinary individuals.
Think how seriously they must surely take their roles and responsibilities as part of this once in a lifetime mission, which is a one way ticket away from everything and everyone they have ever known.
Imagine what kind of people they would really be...
Now consider the actual actions of these people within this story:
So.... it doesn’t make sense. Those people just don't make sense.
They acted illogically, they made decisions I cannot believe intelligent people would ever make.
And what does this do to a story?
It makes the entire thing completely unbelievable, despite how beautifully it was shot, despite the incredible imagery and exciting mix of scifi and horror. Those character inconsistencies ruined the entire story, because I could no longer believe it was real.
Those inconsistencies broke me out of the spell.
So what have I learned?
I think the lesson is to understand that the world you are creating in your novel is a real place.
It could be a mad fantasy or a scifi epic with radically different rules completely removed from our own universe.
Or it could be a crime story set in a normal city in 2017.
No matter the setting, your world has rules.
And within your world, those rules have to be real.
I found this next quote interesting and helpful:
For every fantastical trait or ability a character has, the author has to work harder to make sure the reader still believes in them.
If they push it too far, the reader will simply switch off from the character, or even the entire story.
— Aaron Miles, quote from 'Keeping Characters Realistic In A Fantasy Setting'.
Obviously this quote is talking about a character's traits or abilities within, for instance, a fantasy novel. Yet this same principle can be applied to the environment you set your novel in too.
If you have a story set in a realistic version of earth's future, where science and technology have not been made redundant by magic, and you choose to populate your story with scientist characters, then your readers have to be able to believe that your scientist characters are actually smart scientists.
It is that simple.
So perhaps what I have learned from this, is to challenge myself with the following questions, every time I write a story:
If this was a real world and my characters were real people, would they still make the same choices?
Would they still act the same way and want the same things?
And finally, one last helpful quote:
When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters.
A character is a caricature.
- Ernest Hemingway.