Making Sense in Fiction

One of my all-time favorite quotes about writing is Mark Twain’s famous statement about fiction versus truth— “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

I’ve been rolling that quote around in my head because my current novel-in-progress pushes certain envelopes. No, there are no supernatural beings, not one character relies on psychic abilities to solve the mystery and the story is not top-loaded with inexplicable coincidences.

Then why am I concerned about the credibility factor? Because most of the characters are extraordinary in one particular way or another—they are smarter or richer or better looking or more successful than the people we all meet in real life. Or are they? I’ve met some extraordinary people. In my everyday life I’ve met word-class performers, notable artists, best-selling authors, famous scientists, successful business people and an heiress or two.

Maybe I should just keep writing and stop worrying about making sense in fiction? After all, fiction is full of over-the-top characters. Mystery fiction in particular is full of genius detectives, multimillionaire victims, beautiful models, retired members of military special-forces units, mad scientists and characters with extraordinary skill-sets (disarming bombs, safe cracking, cave-diving, B.A.S.E jumping, an encyclopedic knowledge of wine that would beat a certified sommelier or juggling).

Juggling? Yes. And here I am juggling a fictional crew that includes a multimillionaire art collector, a world-famous authority on Vermeer, a Madison Avenue gallerist, a Marine turned fitness model/security expert specializing in the transport of valuable works of art, and a former circus wire walker. Juggle, juggle, juggle…


  1. That sounds like quite an interesting collection you’re juggling with Candy. No matter how exceptional we make our characters, they’re believable because of how many real-life characters are just as exceptional.
    I seem to recall that someone said that every possible storyline had been done. That may be true, but it’s how we do it that makes it acceptable to the readers. I’m sure you’ll have no problems in that direction.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • Candy Korman

      Thanks for the encouraging words! I woke up this morning with yet another out-sized twist on the personality of one of the characters. Larger-than-life or just living large? Something to think about.

  2. Characters in fiction are /meant/ to be larger than life! We expect our heroes to be, well, heroic, just as we expect our villains to be extra bad. These days they come with extenuating circumstances but the good merely highlights and contrasts the bad. So go for it! 😀

    • Candy Korman

      So glad everyone seems on board with my super-sized characters. They are larger than life, but still make sense (I hope). Realism has its place. I’m just not sure what it is.