Enjoyability Vs. Believability

Sorry I missed my post yesterday, guys. Turns out I had more to do than I would expect, for it being so early in the school year. But I’m making up for it today; since I haven’t been surfing the net as much (oh boy, such an antiquated phrase), I decided I would write a post today in place of the links of the week. Today’s post is going to be all about the spectrums of enjoyability and believability—how they relate to one another, what to aim for, and the like.

First off, allow me to define the two terms. For the sake of this post, I am defining enjoyability as a somewhat ephemeral quality, measured only by how much readers like something (a book, a chapter, etc.). It is completely subjective, and therefore very hard to measure. Believability is still subjective, but tends to vary less from reader to reader.

Believability, as I’m going to use it, refers to how involved a reader feels in a novel’s world. It doesn’t matter if that world is magical, technological, or historical: the novel is believable if readers can consistently picture the events happening as you outline them, and can understand whatever rules govern your universe.

So, onto the meat of this post: there are really four basic situations for a novel, when taking these two factors into account. Any element of a novel is either believable and enjoyable, believable but not enjoyable, not believable but enjoyable, or neither believable nor enjoyable. There are shades of grey, of course, but these are the basic scenarios. So which do you want?

Believable & Enjoyable: The best-case scenario. Readers feel caught up in your world, and would like to stay there as long as possible.

Believable but not Enjoyable: Most novels that aspire to the first will have some scenes or chapters like this, and that’s actually no issue. So long as whatever’s going on doesn’t turn the reader off, having a few mundane scenes isn’t a deal-breaker (although, if possible, there should only be enough to facilitate the story and no more).

Not Believable but Enjoyable: I would stipulate that this is better than the category before, but quickly mention that many readers find the unbelievable less enjoyable (so this would be difficult to achieve with them). One example of this working out (in my opinion, at any rate) is Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth. He brings in a power for one of his characters that was never mentioned before, to prevent her rape and bring the novel to an eventual close. I didn’t mind it because the finale was far more interesting, and I also didn’t want to read about a character getting raped; even though he “broke” the rules of his world, it worked.

Not Believable & Not Enjoyable: This is the most dreadful category to be in. Really, novels in this category are the ones that readers don’t finish.

In conclusion, aim for both believable and enjoyable, but—unless you have a very good reason, don’t break the believability of your novel. As always, if you’d like to respond, leave a comment down below and I’ll do my best to reply!

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