When truth is stranger

Some of the most painful feedback to receive on writing is when you include something based on personal experience, and readers tell you it isn’t believable. You know it’s not an affront, but it can feel like one – an accusation of lying, that somehow you’ve seen or reacted “wrong”.

In academic writing, you cite more sources or present more data or clarify your argument. But in fiction, what can you do?

You can give more or different information, to ground the thing in a context that makes it clearer how, yes, this tiny thing really could have that tremendous an impact (or that this thing could wash over someone altogether, or whatever it is).

Or you can decide that you are writing for those who already share your experience and therefore correctly understand your allusions. Anyone else is not the target audience, and therefore it’s on them to do the extra work.

Are you writing so that people unfamiliar can get a basic sense of you, or to take people who grasp the fundamentals to a higher level?