One Rule to Writing Fiction is that --
Bad Decisions make for good novels.
I think instead that Good Decisions make for Great Novels.
I don't know about you,
but often in the past I came to a point in my life when all the road signs seemed written in a foreign language ...
and the way ahead was obscured in fog, no sure way to be seen.
Most times in life, we simply do not possess sufficient data to make the definitive "right" decision.
We do not know if the salesman is lying about points of the home we are about to buy.
We do not know if our priest is off diddling little boys in his spare time.
We do not know if new discoveries will make the profession we are about to train for obsolete.
Most of us just make the best decision we can based on the information we possess at the moment.
That is why when we read a story in which the MC makes a decision
that is obviously contrary to the information she or he has we groan,
get lifted out of the moment, and realize this is just a fabricated tale.
A great novel is one in which the MC makes what seems to us to be a good decision but it unravels into something horrible.
We can buy that since that is what has happened to us so often in the past.
I mean you go to the hospital to get better.
But too often, the opposite happens.
Recent estimates show that every year 648,000 people develop infections while in the hospital.
Nasty ones, too, that may not be treatable with antibiotics and that prove fatal for 75,000 hospital patients.
Just one of those infections
— caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile, or C. diff —
sickens about 290,000 hospital patients per year and kills at least 27,000,
according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And many hospitals don’t do a good job of controlling the infections:
3 out of 10 hospitals in CR’s ratings system got low marks for not keeping C. diff in check.
But you and I do not know the names of those offending hospitals.
That fact could lead us to make what appears to be a good decision that turns out to be a very, very bad one.
Sometimes whether a decision is good or bad is only known in retrospect.
A novel composed of those kind of decisions seem real and absorbs our readers into the consequences.
We all have been in car accidents where the other party is to blame so not every character in your novel must be savvy.
How many of us have been tripped up in high school by a well-meaning dunce of a friend or by a really vicious dysfunctional who wore a charming face?
Readers need to feel an affinity, not superiority, to the central characters to be drawn into the flow of the story.
What do you think?