Fiction: How far are you willing to suspend disbelief?

So, last week I decided to work overtime at Day Job and, although it was only two hours extra a day, I felt like I’d made a daily trek across the Serengeti.  Exhausted.  I didn’t want to look at a computer, let alone write.  Or blog.  Or read.  Or do anything that required a nominal amount of thinking/moving.

To top things off, I was also visited by an old nemesis:  High Blood Pressure.  Now, HBP and I haven’t been well acquainted since I was pregnant with The Preschooler, but last week my blood pressure spiked to astronomical levels most likely not healthy for someone my age.  Or any age.  So, I spent last week literally feeling the blood flow in my face.  Yes.  I’ll say it again: feeling the blood flow in my face.  No.  It doesn’t sound healthy to me either.  I’m blaming it on a new birth control pill that I subsequently stopped taking, which resulted in my face no longer buzzing and my blood pressure sloooooowly dropping.  So, spoilers: I’ll have great blood pressure, but no doubt will end up pregnant.  The Hubs doesn’t think this is funny at all.  I told him, sure, I could be wrong.  Because it’s only happened to us twice before.

The other night, after the Rowdy Boys went to bed, my vibrating face and I laid down and watched the Bonnie and Clyde miniseries.  Side note: Since when is a miniseries two episodes?  Isn’t that just….a two part movie event?  Anyway, anyway, so, I’m not sure how I felt about the B&C miniseries.  Here’s why:

It was kind of just historical fan fiction.  What I mean by this, was that it was historical in the fact that there was a) a Barrow gang that ran around robbing and killing and kidnapping in the 1930s and b) Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were in the Barrow gang.  Other than that, I feel like the movie’s writers just made up their own alternate reality and placed these historical characters in it, making a James Cameron’s Titanic-esq tragic romance.  Here are two examples of what bothered me the most:

1.  Bonnie Parker was shown as being the driving force behind the Barrow gang.  Clyde just wanted to sit around and have babies, where as she wanted to shoot everyone and make a name for herself.

2.  The End.  (scroll down to the next paragraph if you don’t want the ending  spoiled.  But if you’re watching a movie about B&C, you probably already know what happened to them)  OMG, the end.  In the last five minutes of the movie, Clyde sets up the ambush and stops the car, effective killing himself and Bonnie in a hail of gunfire.  From beyond the grave, he states that he gave Miss Bonnie Parker her big ending.

I.  Can’t.

And yes, I’m pretty much the pot calling the kettle black here, because I write historical fiction and often use historical characters in my plots, making them say/do things they aren’t historically noted doing.  However, for me, I think there’s a fine line where I’m able to suspend disbelief enough to say, well, okay that could have happened.  Example: In my novel, Anything You Ask of Me, the main character Elizabeth runs around as a spy for Jeb Stuart.  Did Elizabeth exist?  No.  But, Belle Boyd did many similar things in and around Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) during the Civil War.  How is that different from the B&C miniseries?  It doesn’t twist who the historical characters were in life; doesn’t change the driving force behind historical events.

When you read my novel, I’m sure you’ll think, “That kid has an unhealthy obsession with Jeb Stuart.”  I’m okay with that.  I’m the president of the unhealthy obsession with Jeb Stuart club.  Let me tell you.

Okay, off track.  Another example is The Walking Dead.  The Hubs and I watch TWD loyally.  We’re able to suspend our disbelief and say, “okay, yeah, I’m on board with zombies.”  But, in some random episode, The Hubs got all huffy and said, “No.  No, there’s no way blah blah blah gun would have blah blah blah-ed that way.  No.  Are they even bothering to research this stuff?”  Never mind we’ve watched four seasons of zombies ripping people to shreds and the governor and Norman Reedus all southern and sweaty and Andrew Lincoln’s “stuff and things,” but for The Hubs, he couldn’t get past some minute weapon detail.  He still watches, sure.  But he’s critical.

Guys, we are the most unfun people to watch movies with.  Yesterday, during a Disney movie marathon on the Disney channel, we hotly debated the time period Tangled probably took place in, based on depicted clothing, weaponry, and socio-economic situations.  The conversation started out with, “I see they’re still using cross bows” and somehow morphed into the repurposing of Rapunzel tower and the history of the English monarchy.

Anyway.

How far are you able to suspend belief?  Are you okay with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or do you turn a side eye at Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette?  Do you prefer authentic plots or are you okay with fictionalized situations with real historical figures?  Or, are you okay with anything–a story is a story?

Meanwhile, on my own writing front, I’m still plugging away on Random Contemporary (when I’m not sleeping) and, based solely on the above described miniseries, now want to write about the 1930s.  Yeah!  I’m off work until Thursday, so maybe I’ll get some writing done.  I’m caught up on sleeping.  So, we’re good on that end.

And, of course, Christmas is what.  Two days away?  The Rowdy Boys are rowdier than ever and I’ve had to resort to hiding presents in plain sight because I have too many shoes on the floor of my closet.  What?  No, we’ve always had a box with a green sheet over it beside the dresser.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I tried putting a pair of flip flops on the box in hope that it would go more unnoticed (?) but The Toddler was standing on it when I woke up this morning.  I need a better plan for next year.

16 Comments

  1. High blood pressure is no fun! I’ve been on medication for it since my early twenties, but I can’t say I’ve ever had the feeling of blood flowing in my face! Yikes!

    I missed Bonnie and Clyde, but it sounds like I didn’t miss much. I don’t have trouble with historical accuracy as long as the story doesn’t pretend to be historically accurate, if that makes any sense. I can live with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but The Last Samurai is a big no. I did love Braveheart though for the story and not the accuracy, so I guess it just depends on how picky I’m feeling.

    Could you hide the Christmas presents in the trunk of your car?

    1. I was on meds until I was pregnant–apparently doctor’s frown upon BP meds and pregnancy. It was fine for two pregnancies and then two years…and now it’s up again. Weird. I’m willing to bet money it was the different brand of bc I got.

      I agree with movies pretending to be historically accurate. “Based on a true story” can mean just about anything. I’m willing to forgive Newsies though. I think the only historically fact they got is that there was a city in 1899 called New York. And kids sold some papers. Braveheart was the first movie The Hubs and I ever made out to. Ha!! We’re such nerds.

      Unfortunately, there’s a stroller in the trunk of my car. I’m just shuffling children out of my bedroom every time they stroll past. Just a few more days to go….

  2. I am reminded of a comment I once made about Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”, I said “I can buy the giant monkey, but the screenwriter ending up with the starlet? That’s just ridiculous.”

    The way I see it, willing suspension of disbelief is negotiated between artist and audience, and everything not specifically negotiated is subject to criticism.

    In “The Walking Dead” the zombies are negotiated, the audience has agreed to believe in them. However, the setting makes it clear that everything else is supposed to be the same as our world. So when something like a firearm behaves in an impossible manner (or my own pet peeve, those cars that never need gasoline and never get dirty) we are well within our rights to object and say, “Hey–I never consented to that!”

    I’m sure I’ve raved about Tim Powers before–he writes Historical Fantasy and has a strict policy of never directly contradicting recorded history. In his novel “Declare”, for example, he writes an alternative biography of Kim Philby, the Soviet spy, and is faithful to everything that is known about the man, he just adds fantastic elements that explain odd facts in the historical record.

    1. That’s a good point!! The Hubs has similar issue with TWD. He’s like, “Who’s mowing the grass? Why are the streets so clean?” Since he was in the Army and has driven a tank, the midseason finale drove him insane. “Tanks take a lot of gas. Where is all that gas coming from?”

      He and I are picky–borderline obsessive–when it comes to the CW because we know far, far too much about the period. I tend to be more forgiving in areas I’m not as familiar with, say, The Other Boleyn Girl. Perhaps that’s why I’m not a fan of alternative history or the “what if” kind of books. Bonnie and Clyde had that type of similar downfall: I knew, historically, Clyde in no way tried to “save” Bonnie by letting them both be killed. That insinuation ruined the whole thing for me.

      Tim Powers is definitely one I’m going to have to add to my TBR list!

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