Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Quirky Stories

Would you believe it?

One of the questions I get asked a lot about writing is ‘Do you ever put real people in your books?’ And my answer is always a very firm no. Never. For more reasons that I can say, unless you have a couple of hours on your hands, but one of them is that what I might think is a true and fair portrait of someone, might be very different from their own view. So I stick to fiction.

On the other hand, I do work really hard to make my stories believable. Which, strangely, is another reason why real life, unaltered and unabridged, doesn’t always work. Because I have a strong feeling that some of the more bizarre aspects of everyday life – well you just couldn’t write ’em.

Take the old story about Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’. Remember the heart shaped stain on the ceiling? Apparently that caused a bit of a rumpus when the book was published – some commentators felt that it stretched the truth a little too far in the pursuit of imagery. Only problem with that, was that Hardy actually got the idea from an account in the newspaper, where a body was found because of… you guessed it… a heart shaped stain on the ceiling below.

Believability is difficult to define, and it’s a wholly personal thing. Take the film ‘What Women Want’. I was perfectly happy to accept that your average advertising executive could be electrocuted by a hairdryer one evening and wake up the next morning with the ability to hear women’s thoughts. Even happier to accept that he might be surprised by them. But the part which jarred a little with me? Everyone seemed to think so coherently! I’m rather hoping that it’s not just me who finds that hard to swallow.

So here’s my point. We’re all willing to suspend our disbelief in lots of different areas, science fiction and supernatural stories wouldn’t be so popular if we weren’t. But despite the fact that truth is often so much more irrational than fiction, we need to be able to make sense of what we read – understand how the wildest of premises might work in real life. And catching hold of how that happens is a bit like holding a gust of wind in your hand. Perhaps that’s where the real magic of the written word begins.

What do you think? And do you have any ‘stranger than fiction’ stories. I’d love you to share them!

Annie x

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12 thoughts on “Would you believe it?”

  1. I’m a firm believer of the adage Truth is Stranger than Fiction. Sorry I can’t think of any right now but I have had strange things that happened to me and my family.

    1. Isn’t it just, Kaelee. Seeing ‘this is based on a true story’ at the beginning of a film or book always seems to be a warning that you may be in for something unlikely! Thanks for dropping by.

  2. I know heaps of stranger than fiction but of course they have all deserted me now when you want to know! I do recall being told by a US author friend that pre 9/11 an acquaintance had sent in a book with the premise of a plane flying into a building. It was rejected saying, ‘no one would believe that premise.’

    the week Boomerang Bride debuted, my husband sat on a plane next to a woman arriving from the USA to marry her fiancé who’d she’d met online. The reverse story of Matilda and with a happier ending.

    I just watched ‘Bernie’ and was stunned that was a true story!

    1. Gosh, Fiona – you’ve sent some very heavy-duty shivers down my spine!

      I wonder what the odds of your husband meeting a real-life online bride on the week your book debuted are? Thinking about it, though, ‘Boomerang Bride’ is a case in point – one of those books which, by some kind of special magic turns an unusual event into a runaway success.

      I’ve not seen ‘Bernie’ – when I looked the film up it did seem unlikely enough to be true 🙂

  3. Annie, I’m in the same boat as Kaelee and Fiona – all my “truth is stranger than fiction” stories have completely eluded me… probably to pop up tonight when I’m trying to sleep! LOL

    But something that did come to mind as I read your blog… Men Who Stare At Goats. It would be interesting to know the real truth behind these programs… or maybe it would just be plain scary!

    1. Sharon, you’ve sent me scurrying back to the internet to look up Men Who Stare At Goats – I’m not sure how I missed that! Working on the principle that the more unbelievable it is, the more likely it is to be true, then that’s got to be the truth! Like you, I’m not really sure I want to know…

  4. That’s so weird, I was the first to post a comment on Thursday, and I come back and it isn’t even up here. What tha? Anyway – What I said was, I am postive I had a poltergeist experience as a teenager (with a witness) and I will go to my grave believing it. However, if I wrote something like that in one of my books I’d be forced to call it a paranormal.
    Life is often stranger than fiction, and if we portray it in our novels we will always be called out for going over the top.

    I cannot watch House or any other Medical Drama without suspending my belief. In the real world, it is totally different than what they portray.

    1. Lynne, thank you for dropping by (twice!) – I guess there are a few ghosts in the WordPress machine 🙂

      What an experience! It seems such a shame that so many of these real-life stories won’t find their way into our books. Maybe one day – I’d love to hear more about your brush with the supernatural.

  5. Hi Annie – your blog reminded me of one of my fav movies. Stranger Than Fiction with Will Farrell. Loved it and have had a huge crush on the Willster ever since!

    I think working in the medical arena you see things – bizzare things – that you’d never ever think could possibly happen to a human being. Way stranger than anything a thriller author could come up with! Snail parasites in the brain, death by umbrella spoke, facial tattoing from an exploding pipe bomb packed with shavings from sparklers, bowls being sucked out by pool filters…. have plenty of those nightmare things in my head.

    But what I really wanted to say is that I often put “bits” of people I know in my books – character traits etc. In fact most of my characters are a hodge podge of people I know or have met along the way in life. I think authors are great observers (aka thieves) of human nature and that really helps to keep the work authentic too.

    1. Hi Amy – another film to get my Gullibility Quotient going, thank you 🙂

      Gulp! Snail parasites in the brain! (Although death by umbrella spoke seems more likely under certain circumstances – Oxford Circus in the rain springs to mind). Such a shame that kid’s imaginations can extend to such nightmare ways of getting into trouble.

      I’m a thief too, when it comes to ‘bits’ of people (I just draw the line at pinching a whole person!). As you say, it does help make a character authentic, and as another confirmed ‘people watcher’ sometimes I just can’t resist.

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