Ever read a fictional story that you swore could be real?
Sensational and supernatural fiction can be incredible to read. But for me, there’s always been something special about a story that leaves you feeling like it very easily could have been true. That’s verisimilitude — fiction that looks like a fact.
I like to think of these kinds of stories as “what ifs.”
‘What if’ …Hitler was cloned…many times?
‘What if’ …Massive solar flares fried all technology on earth?
‘What if’ …We actually find life on Mars?
Any of these stories, if written, would be works of fiction (we hope). But most of us can see a path of logic that might allow any of them to prove true at some point in the future. For that reason, each of these stories can be said to have verisimilitude.
Conversely, magical stories of fairies, elves, dragons, Klingons, and all manner of fantastic mythical creatures are amazing tales of enchantment — but they lack verisimilitude. Why? Because there is no clear path of logic that we could follow, which shows us how any of those beings might manifest into reality.
Knowing this, we can surmise that if a rational person can follow a trail of logic through our story, from beginning to end, we’re on the right track. If we don’t ‘cheat’ by getting our protagonist out of imminent danger through some ‘magical’ or ‘supernaturally’ unexplainable intervention, that’s even better.
When our characters use methods that are readily available to all of us in the present time to solve their various conflicts and crises, they become believable characters. Believable characters are believable because they have verisimilitude.