Editing Rant: Belief Coins

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Have I talked about Belief Coins before? I don’t remember – but let’s talk about it again since clearly some people aren’t getting the message.

Too many suspension of beliefs ruins a story. A writer gets only so many coins to play for suspension of belief.

Depending on the “store” you are shopping in, some of the suspension of beliefs are on discount. For example, in the romance genre you can have love-at-first-sight (Insta love), not needing to go into work, and easy adjustments over class divides. Science fiction offers faster-than-light travel and gun battles on space stations. Thrillers allow for traveling across the globe without problems with passports, inner city traffic rush hour can be easily bypassed on side roads, and people can go without sleep or food for days (they may sit down to eat, but it is always, always interrupted). Cozy mystery, the main character can interfere with police investigations without getting arrested. Erotica gets to getting it on quickly and friends support a sexual situation without questions. 

But those Belief Coins have to be earned for the breaks with reality. Everything else needs to work without a suspension of belief. A romance where the characters go without eating? A science fiction where friends support a Insta-love sexual situation without questions? A thriller with gun fights in the middle of rush hour and the police don’t respond? A cozy mystery where a space alien is the killer? You darn well better give the reason these things are happening. Yes, you can explain them, but you don’t get to wave a magic wand and make them disappear. If you have read romances, you know how many times a sex scene ends with – “you hungry?” (and a stomach growls).

Know the tropes of your genre – these are the discounted Belief Coins. When I sit down to a werewolf romance, I expect InstaLove of true mates when they scent each other. I don’t expect an Earth vampire to end up operating a spacecraft in the middle of an alien-attacks science fiction story.

A recent erotica I read had the follow items needed for Belief Coins: two men love the same women and don’t have a problem with each other (discount coin); insta-sex (discount coin); rich men relationship with poorer women no problem for any of the parties (discount coin). Three coins is a lot, but doable, especially with the erotica branch of romances.

Things that broke the bank: (1) inter-racial. Normally this is okay since the cover advertised it. But the racial factors were ignored entirely – the two (very rich) men going after a black woman, never mentioned her color except once. Her skin color made no impact on the story. The genre of inter-racial romance still requires some sort of acknowledgement of overcoming – even the erotica version. Fetishizing the difference is one branch in the erotica tree; another branch is just acknowledging people of all colors can love each other. But in either case, it is integral to a inter-racial romance. (2) rich level. The men drop $2 million dollars without blinking. While their jobs of hotel architecture rakes in some money, it doesn’t do it at that level. Owning the hotels, sure, but not the working folk making them – even the white collar jobs.

And that last one is what really broke the bank. Their job did not match their wealth levels. Both of the men had “come from normal beginnings” and just got lucky with their jobs – by their mid-twenties. Nope – thrown out of the story. If one had come from money, okay, but not normal guys still working their way up in the world.

(Fact Check: Just looked up the window of salaries for architects – about $50,000 to $150,000 per year in 2019 with the average about $90,000. To drop $2 million without blinking, I’m thinking a person needs to have at least $50 million in the bank. Or an income of around $20 million a year.)

Even eroticas need a foot in reality. Even wizards, aliens, vampires, super spies, viking kings, and dragons need to be real in some manner.

Spend those coins wisely.

One thought to “Editing Rant: Belief Coins”

  1. Good points to remember. Writing alternate history I try to avoid inordinate leaps of logic and minimize the suspension of belief. Some efforts are more successful than others.

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