A New Veracity: How To Make Your Story More “Real”

16 06 2023

Been listening to true supernatural podcasts, “Spooked”, “Radio Rental”, others. “Spooked” seems to get suckered by obvious fictions. “RR” stories less dramatic, but seem more “realistic”. That got me wondering: what makes a “real” ghost story more “real”.

A discerning mind will be suspicious of any testimony conforming to three-beat or Save-The-Cat formulas, certainly. But if I may, there are other narrative aspects that probably raise suspicion, aspects that are often overlooked. Movies and novels have more leeway in avoiding these poorly-used aspects. but in short stories, it should be possible to tweak and make the short stories seem more realistic.

The podcast “Spooked” annoyed me so much that I haven’t listened to the current season. Maybe they’ve improved. They present edited interviews with the event witnesses.

When a story seems fake to me, there’s: 1) a tight timeline (over a weekend; when we moved into a new house), 2) one single POV sees *every supernatural event*, 3) activity escalates from tension to physical menace, especially if escalations are in three beats, 4) all clues point to a simple, traditional answer (my dead uncle, a folk curse, La Llorona).

The interviews sound sincere. Maybe they are. Maybe the events actually happened. But what makes something seem more realistic to me? The “Radio Rental” stories generally has those elements.

The stories on “Radio Rental” also are presented with edited interviews.

The stories seem more real because they: 1) usually take place over months, years (multiple sightings or activities), 2) not just one POV sees everything (some events are described second-hand), 3) use multiple means to address the events (flickering lights examined by multiple electricians and Fire Marshalls), 4) have moments of NOPE (a noise is *not* investigated due to fear), 5) end seemingly unresolved.

I maintain that the best horror could happen without the characters even knowing. Have you seen “Session 9”? Each character experiences their own seemingly mundane events, and the viewer is the only one who knows there is a single force that drives the plot. At the movie’s end, all the characters see is a stressed man on a murder spree.

Does that remind you of a story that you like?

As for the photo, I took that two weeks ago in NYC harbor.



One response

17 06 2023
Alan C Breakstone

Interesting observations on making fiction more realistic. Also, damn great shot of moon over the Big Apple.

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