It pains me to say that I fell foul of this while writing Wasted. There’s a scene where a pigeon comes smashing through a window. One young reader said she hadn’t believed that bit. It was no excuse that I could truthfully say that this has happened to me twice: the fact is that I’d failed to convince that reader that it would happen. Slapped wrist.
As a writer you have to use your skill to lull the reader into a sense in which he will believe everything you say. Just as there's a body language for lying in real life, there's a body language for writing fiction which casts a spell over readers. You have to sustain it, gently hypnotising them into belief, but any lapse on your part will jerk them back into the world and they will remember that you are only an author making things up. It would be like a hypnotist who suddenly sneezes.
- consistency of character
- consistency of voice
- no sudden introduction of a new device that has not already been trailed
- no tricks, no messing around with the reader
- no "because I say so" - the event must seem as though it was causally determined, not pulled out of the hat as a last desperate attempt by the writer
- no laziness - no omission of necessary detail to build the context for your device
This, to me, is the whole magic and beauty of telling stories: the mysterious thing that our brains do to fiction, where we will believe the impossible and yet disbelieve the perfectly ordinary. The skill is in getting that right.
And unfortunately for us as writers, sometimes the truth is stranger, more interesting and more convenient than fiction.