Oliver Sacks sadly missed. A man who demystified and explained so much; a mental health narrative pioneer.
For writers, the psychology of characters plays an important role in the narrative. Consistency is important, but so too is aberration. If your character deviates from the norm they must do so in a way that though strange, eccentric or frightening, is also credible and fits the kind of deviant behaviour your reader may be shocked by but will accept from that individual. Credibility in writing is terribly important. Yes, it’s fiction, but if that fictional reality is not grounded your reader becomes suspicious. For this to work the surrounding facts must seem true to life. Crime writers have to make certain that the ‘police procedurals’ are spot on, because all readers/viewers carry with them a background knowledge of beliefs and understanding of actions and character that have formed over many years.
When teaching I discuss the importance of the suspension of disbelief. SoD is what we do whenever we sit down and open a book, view a television drama, film or theatre. We know that we are taking part in a work of fiction, joining the artifice by the very act of our participation. We believe in these characters absolutely. The trouble can come when something jars; when some aspect of behaviour, procedure or character doesn’t quite gel. Your readers, if they are generous, may allow you one or two of these disconcerting clunks, but three or four and the suspicions grow into wholesale disbelief; the narrator is no longer trusted, which is only fine if you have an ‘unreliable’ narrator and this is what you planned.
In order to convince your reader, as well as establishing your characters daily habits, lifestyle, looks, background and profession (or not), consider character; the light and the dark of it, because even if they do something ‘out of character’ it has to be possible/credible within their personality.
Fictional Narratives the short story linked to the forthcoming ‘Magnificent Obsessions’ exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts is now booking, call 01603 593199 to reserve your place.