Monday, August 11, 2014

How Much Reality Does Your Fiction Really Need?

by Jennifer AlLee

Does anything in this conversation sound familiar?

New Friend: “So, what do you do for a living?”

You: “I’m a writer.”

New Friend: “Oh really? What do you write?”

You: “Novels.”

New Friend: Laughs and nods knowingly. “Man, it must be nice to just make stuff up for a living. Wish I had an easy job like that.”

At that point, you’ve got a couple choices. You can (A) insist that research is a huge part of your far-from-easy writing process; (B) point out that while you do enjoy your job, you’re sure not making a living doing it; or (C) find a clever way to change the subject before your new friend starts telling you her amazing ideas for books that you really should write. Generally, I opt for the third choice.

Any writer worth her salt will tell you that all books require some level of reality. Yes, we create characters who may or may not bear a resemblance to real live folk. But even though they are the products of our imaginations, those characters still must have believable emotions, reactions, and motives.

Early on in your writing career, you’ll be faced with the choice between keeping it real and making stuff up. Let’s take setting: You want to write a story set in a small town in Ohio. The problem is, you’ve never lived in Ohio. In fact, you’ve never lived in anything but a big city. So you decide to make up a town. That way, if you mention the drug store on the corner of Main and Cypress, you don’t have to worry that that intersection probably doesn’t exist. But there’s still so much you DO need to know. What’s the weather like in that part of the state? What’s the terrain like? What do the people there do for fun? Would they be more likely to wear cowboy boots or hiking boots? Would they ride horses or ATVs?

Photo credit: Crestock/4774344sean

Of course, if you decide to set your story in a town that already exists, you have a responsibility to get the facts right, whether you’re able to go there or not. But in a lot of ways, that may actually be easier than making it all up. Thanks to the internet, you can take a virtual tour of almost any place in the world. One visit to Google Earth and you can practically stroll down the streets of whatever town you’ve decided is the perfect setting for your novel.

In my most recent novel, Last Family Standing, I took the question of reality one step farther by having my characters compete in a reality TV show. The world of reality TV is notoriously closed-mouth. Unless you know someone who’s on the inside, it’s nearly impossible to get the scoop on what goes on. Believe me, I tried. But there are ways around that.

1.     Observation – I don’t watch a ton of reality TV, but I have watched Survivor since its second season. So it was natural for me to base the show in my book on Survivor, in part as an homage to something I’ve enjoyed for so long. But I didn’t want to simply copy the show, so I threw in a lot of new stuff, particularly the element of family members competing together to win the game. Ironically, right after I finished writing the book, Survivor announced the new season would be “Blood vs. Water” which pitted family teams against each other. It was one of those weird coincidences that happen so often to creative folk. I purposely did not watch that season of the show, simply because I didn’t want to accidentally take too much from it. And I just found out that the new season of Survivor will feature a similar family twist. You better believe I’ll be watching that.
2.     Research – Try as I might (and boy, did I try) I couldn’t find anyone to talk to about being on the show. However, I found several books written about the production of reality shows and the psychology of participating in them. I also dug up print interviews with former cast mates and crew members, as well as YouTube videos that helped me with what the location would look like.
3.     Imagination – Yes, Virginia, you really can make some stuff up. After all, I DID create my own reality show. It was up to me to decide the rules, the pitfalls, and all the fun little details that make it so interesting. I just had to make sure it was all plausible.

When it comes down to it, fiction is always a careful blending of the real and the imagined. As writers, our job is to weave together just the right amounts so the reader never has time or cause to wonder which is which.

 GIVEAWAY – Jennifer is giving away two autographed copies of her new novel, Last Family Standing. Please leave a comment for a chance to win.

Every family has drama . . . but it doesn’t usually play out on national television.

Twenty-five years ago, Monica gave up a baby girl for adoption. Now, the thing Monica didn’t dare hope for has happened: Jessica has reentered her life... and wants to meet her. There’s just one catch: the reunion must happen on a reality TV show. Though Monica has hesitations, she’s willing to swallow her pride—and a few other unsavory items—if that’s what it takes to connect with her daughter.

Between the unpleasant surprises of nature, the awkward tension with other cast mates, and her desperate attempts to do or be anything remotely athletic, Monica quickly learns that reality bites… hard. It all might make for good TV, but it isn’t very helpful in building relationships. As she stumbles through challenges and faces buried emotions and regrets, Monica wonders if she can be what her daughter wants and needs—and is that more than just a teammate? Can Monica and Jessica ever really be the Last Family Standing?


BIO – Jennifer AlLee was born in Hollywood, California, and spent her first ten years living above a mortuary one block away from the famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. Now she lives in the grace-filled city of Las Vegas, which just goes to prove she’s been blessed with a unique life. When she’s not busy spinning tales, she enjoys playing games with friends, attending live theater and movies, and singing at the top of her lungs to whatever happens to be playing on the car radio. Although she’s thrilled to be living out her lifelong dream of being a novelist, she considers raising her son to be her greatest creative accomplishment. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Her novels include The Pastor’s WifeThe Mother Road, A Wild Goose Chase Christmas and the upcoming Last Family Standing (9/15) from Abingdon Press; Diamond in the Rough, Vanishing Act, and Curtain Call from Whitaker House and co-written with Lisa Karon Richardson; and the novella Comfort and Joy in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories from Barbour. Visit her at and


Helen Gray said...

Hi Jennifer,

So far I've only had one person tell me she has an idea (that's never been done) she wants me use to write a book. :)

Thanks for your insights.

Will you be in St. Louis next month?

The coffee pot's set to brew.

Jackie said...

Thanks for sharing.

I love the cover of your book, Jennifer. Beautiful! And the story sounds great. I'd love to be entered in the drawing.

Have a great day!

Marianne Barkman said...

Welcome, Jennifer. How is it that some people still don't get it that writing is hard work? I appreciate authors so much, and am anxious to read your novel. I actually have quite a few friends who have been adopted ... Some have found their birth families, others, like my brother have not looked. Please put my name in the drawing!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I must admit that I generally watch Survivor. Sometimes I wait until they merge to decrease the drama factor.

A book based on a reality show! Wow, you have me hooked.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jennifer, what a great and fresh concept for a book! I'd have never thought of that, but you can't possibly run short of conflict, right?

Reality.... I love it in books, I love deep-gut emotion, I love overcomers, I love the survivor within each one of us. I don't like drama per se.... but I love emotions, and that's always a fine line to walk.

This is great to look at "reality" from another angle!

Helen, I've probably been asked (or had stories suggested) a couple of dozen times, and there is ONE STORY I might do... because I read a YA about the topic when my kids were younger, and I have never forgotten that book. So if that book grabbed me then... maybe I can do a novel for adults about the same subject now.

BUT... I've got to be able to make it warm and humorous and I'm stumped, which means I'll back-burner it until I feel like the time is right. If ever.

So many stories. So little time!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Zucchini bread to go with Helen's coffee...

Because why wouldn't we want zucchini bread???????


Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Jennifer!
Thanks for the tips on researching our novels.

I write historical fiction. Would be cool if we could Google Earth and stroll down the streets of small towns in the late 1800s.


Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, thanks for the zucchini bread. One of my favorites! I'm guessing the zucchini came from your garden.


Missy Tippens said...

Good morning everyone! Thanks for coffee and zucchini bread Helen and Ruthy!

Jennifer, your book sounds so fun. What great conflict to set up this meeting against having to compete on TV!

I make up most of my towns. But I base them on similar towns I've visited. I have fun doing that!

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, I watched a season or two of Survivor. The reality show I watch most is American Idol. I can't wait for the next season!

Missy Tippens said...

Okay, Ruthy. Now you have me curious about that YA story idea!

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, thanks for stopping by!

Marianne, we appreciate you, too!

Janet, wouldn't that be cool if Google could really do that?! :)

kaybee said...

Thank you, Jen. The last person who told me I "just made stuff up" should be getting out of the hospital any day now.
Kathy Bailey

kaybee said...

It's like when people tell a pastor, "Oh, you only work for one hour on Sunday mornings." DO THEY EVEN HAVE A CLUB?

kaybee said...

I have to be careful about research because I not only write about places I'm not in, I write about time periods that are long gone. I did make up an Ohio town and an Oregon Territory town for the "Western Dreams" series. But for "City On a Hill," my New York series, I couldn't very well make up New York. I am constantly honing my research skills. Oh, boy, we're into Prohibition with "City On a Hill," and I get to make up my own mobsters.
Thank you, Jen.

DebH said...

Hi Jennifer
i'm currently working on something where I can make up a bunch of stuff, but there is some reality where I need to get it right in order to not offend any Coast Guard people. Research is tough for me. I always feel like I'm taking the long way to getting the information I need.

As an adoptee who found her birth parents, I always like to read those types of stories. Like people, each adoptee/birth parent story is unique. I happen to have had a happy reunion story. Our first meet was very low key and somewhere where we wouldn't have to share time with either family so we could just concentrate on each other. The idea of meeting on TV is shudder worthy for me. Like I said, each mother/child reunion is unique. thank God.

very cool premise and I'm sure will be a fun read for many. would love have my name in the draw too.

thanks for visiting.

Janet Dean said...

Kathy B, whenever a plot gets sticky, my dh tells me just to make things up. I haven't sent him to the hospital. Yet. LOL


Wilani Wahl said...

Jennifer, this book sounds so interesting. It is going on my wish list.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Kathy B! Remind me not to cross you. ;)

Sounds like you have some great settings!

Becke said...

Beautiful cover and intriguing book blurb. I can't imagine anything worse than playing out my life on a reality show, especially something I wasn't proud of!

Thanks for the tips.

Missy Tippens said...

DebH, I'm the same way with research. It's not easy for me. For some reason I always fear contacting people to see if I can interview them. I don't know why I fear it. I guess I don't want to be a pain in the rear. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Good morning Wilani and Becke! Glad you dropped by.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Hi Helen! Yes, I'll be at the ACFW conference next month in St. Louis. Can't wait to see you :)

Jennifer AlLee said...

Jackie, Abingdon always does a great job on covers, but I'm particularly fond of this one. Funny, the original cover design was totally different and looked more like a nonfiction book. They really pegged the feel of the novel with round two!

Jennifer AlLee said...

Marianne, the inspiration for this book came from the fact that I gave up a baby for adoption many years ago. The novel is not autobiographical, but I definitely have a unique perspective on the subject.

Myra Johnson said...

Jennifer, great to see you here!!! Yep, I'm with you on response #3 to those uncomfortable conversations about the writing life. ;-)

I've done both--using a real town as my setting and making one up. I also like making up a town that is close to a real city so my characters can hop over from time to time for some added realism.

But you're so right. It's impossible to avoid at least a little research. What did we ever do without the Internet and Google Earth???

I've never been a Survivor fan, but my kids are and your new book looks so fun!

Jennifer AlLee said...

Hey all you Seekers! So good to see you guys. Thanks so much for having me. And for having zucchini bread. Mmmmm.... one of my faves!

Jennifer AlLee said...

Kathy, yes, sometimes I have a pretty strong reaction when folks tell me how easy my job is LOL I think teachers experience the same thing. Hearing "It must be nice to have all summer off." You really never know how hard a person works unless you spend some time doing their job.

Jennifer AlLee said...

DebH, so glad to hear about your positive experience connecting with your birth family! My daughter and I have made tentative contact through Facebook. We've friended each other so we can keep up with each other's lives. I'm also still in touch with her parents, which is a real blessing.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Hi Wilani! Ooo, I love being on someone's wish list! LOL

Jennifer AlLee said...

Thanks for stopping by, Becke! I actually wish I could go on a show like Survivor, but there's no way I'd make it past the first day! I'm a real wimp when it comes to physical challenges.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Myra, the first time I ever used Google Earth I looked up my address. First I thought, hey, that's my house. Then I realized... hey, that's my car! I'm still not sure what I think about that LOL

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Jennifer! I had no idea how much research went into fiction until I started writing it. :-) I also was adopted, and after reading your blurb, I'm sooo grateful for a quiet reunion with my birth mother. Your book looks terrific!

Jennifer AlLee said...

Hi Meghan! Thanks so much for stopping by :)

Vince said...

Hi Jennifer:

Spending a lifetime in Hollywood and Las Vegas has given you the rare opportunity to view reality from the outside. As a philosopher, I envy you.

I heard a producer once say, “There is no reality on reality TV shows.” Everything is edited to create a reality that never happened.

In essence reality is what causes pain. Other than that, we each create and live in our own reality. That’s why twenty witnesses will give twenty different reports on what they witnessed at the same crime scene.

While we may not have a firm idea of what ‘the real’ is, we have a great ability to tell what isn’t real. Detecting what isn’t real is a proficient way of preventing pain.

Maybe the dictum should be: “Don’t be unreal in your writing.” This is something paranormal writers have to deal with in their ‘other world creations’. Making the real real is hard but making the unreal real, that’s a challenge and a half. (Don’t ever tell a paranormal writer they have it easy!!!)

To paraphrase Hemingway,“What’s real is what’s still nagging you in the morning.”

Another producer once said, “Reality means you don’t have to pay any writers.” Remember that writers. : )

I’d like to see a reality show about writers picketing a reality show. Sixteen weeks to see if the writer’s union can shut down the reality show’s production. This would be meta-fiction. (But that’s what I write.)

Now I can’t wait to read “Last Family Standing”. I’m a big fan of stories about adopted children finding their biological mothers. There is something about ‘second chance’ themes that are just made for romances. And that theme is ‘second chance’ on steroids!


P.S. As I was posting this, I heard this lyric on Folk Alley: “If you remember the ‘60’s, you weren’t there.” What great insight!

Sandy Smith said...

This is a great topic. I am setting my novel in Nebraska, where I live, but haven't decided if I'm using just a made-up town or a combination of made-up and real. My novel is built around a tornado and the aftermath, so I will definitely need to do research.
Jennifer, you book sounds interesting. Count me into the drawing.

Eileen Barnes said...

I so agree that the research portion of writing is the toughest part and then the guilt that maybe you have events or characters wrong and someone is going to call you out for that is another heavy weight. However, I am leaning heavily on the 3rd element as the back door. "Imagination made me do it" is my engraved motto.

Missy Tippens said...

Jen, we're glad you're here! It's so nice to hear you've connected with your daughter.

Missy Tippens said...

Jen, I have to laugh at what you said about being a wimp. I would be too!

We've been watching the show Naked and Afraid (forgot to mention that one earlier, although it's a little embarrassing to admit with that title!). :) But it's truly painful to watch what they go through sometimes. I could NEVER do it even with clothes on. I'd be out of there the first day, wanting a good meal and my soft, warm bed. LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, I love that Hemingway paraphrase! Thanks for sharing that. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Eileen! I worry about getting it right, too. More than settings, I worry about getting careers right.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, I like to do what Myra said. Make up the main town but then have them pop into somewhere real sometimes (or maybe mention living nearby).

For my last book, I made up a small town. But I wrote a scene in Atlanta (didn't use any real street names, though).

S. Trietsch said...


I'm intrigued with your book subject!! How cool. Thanks for keeping it real for us on the island ;-)


Jennifer Smith said...

"Last Family Standing" sounds SO interesting! I'll have to make sure to read it. :) Thanks for the chance to win it!

Mark Abel said...

What a great idea for a book, a story within a reality show. Way to go Jennifer that's outstanding!
Recently I read a book authored by a young man who was talking about how the current millennial generation and how they have it all together. The young man was saying they understand reality because they grew up with reality TV! When I read that I thought to myself, what a hoot, reality TV is not real. As soon as you add the camera everyone is acting and it becomes unreality TV. So I have a question: Did you integrate that unreality aspect of reality show into your story? I'm just curious to know how you approached it. Thanks again for sharing your post and good luck with the book, I would love to read it.

CatMom said...

Welcome Jennifer!
Thank you for this great post--very helpful reminders for us.
Your book sounds fascinating--Wow!
And to me, reading your bio was also fascinating--growing up in Hollywood?! That sounds like a story in itself. :)

Ruthy, I hope there's some zucchini bread left---YUM! :)

Happy Monday to all!
Hugs, Patti Jo

Elaine Manders said...

Welcome Jennifer.

In the story I'm getting ready to write, the setting is a big city. I know that because of the congested traffic, the heroine lives in a high-rise, and the hero lives in the suburbs. I'll mention made up street names and other landmarks but I might not mention the name of the city at all or if I do, it'll be made up. That'll cut down on the research.

Sandy Smith said...

Missy, thanks for your thoughts on place names. I was thinking about using a real location as well, but I wonder how to do that realistically. Can I also make up a county name? I don't know how much that would bother local people who know such places don't exist. I know that doesn't bother me when I read, but as a writer I'm not sure.

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie and Jennifer S, thanks for dropping by!

Mark, that's a really good point. Once you put people on camera and throw in a production crew, it tends to lose the reality. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Patti Jo! I've brought sandwiches from Firehouse Subs for lunch!

Actually, my son brought them. I sent him out for sandwiches for our lunch. :)

I'm so thrilled to have him home! He's been in Europe all summer. I missed him terribly! It was a long 11 weeks.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, I haven't mentioned county names. But I would think you could do a real county but make up a fictional town name.

I've actually used regions. I make up towns and say they're northeast of Atlanta. So people who live in that area might picture familiar places but will still know I'm not talking about a real town.

Missy Tippens said...

Elaine, sounds like that would be the perfect time to make up a city name.

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Jennifer! I'm not a huge fan of watching reality television (except SyFy's Face Off, which is AMAZING!), but I do have a reality show in my novel. The heroine actually runs away from home to get away from it!

I must admit, my past job as a news reporter sometimes hampers my dose of reality in my writing. I want to make sure I have everything correct and try to put too much in (such as, in my made up town, I started wondering about the water treatment plant of the town, which has nothing to do with the story whatsoever). I've been trying really hard to let that little part of my imagination go, and concentrate on the fiction!

Have a wonderful day!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Stephanie! I love that. Sounds like some of my perfectionist tendencies. :)

Missy Tippens said...

What about any of you writing sci fi or fantasy? Do you have to do research for creating your worlds? How much reality do you put in it?

Jennifer AlLee said...

Vince, you are absolutely right about reality TV not really being "real." Editing can make all kinds of things appear in a different way!

Jennifer AlLee said...

Sandy, there are big advantages to setting a novel in a place where you live. When I was writing "A Wild Goose Chase Christmas" I had a super-tight deadline, so I set it in Monrovia, CA, which is a town I lived near for many years and was really familiar with. Even then, I had to look up a bunch of stuff to make sure things really were the way I remembered them.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Eileen, I feel the biggest burden of not "getting stuff wrong" when I write historicals. This is probably why I mostly write contemporary fiction! LOL

Jennifer AlLee said...

Hey Stephanie and Jennifer! So glad to see both of you here :)

Jennifer AlLee said...

Mark, yes, I did touch on the fact that "reality TV" is not what you think it is. But I really spent more time on the relationship between Monica, her daughter, and the people around her.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Hi Patti Jo,

Yes, growing up in Hollywood was interesting. We lived kitty-corner from the Pantages theater, one block away from Hollywood and Vine. Our Thanksgiving tradition was to stand out on the balcony and watch the Hollywood Christmas parade as it moved down Hollywood Blvd right below us. Sadly, the mortuary has since been torn down and is now a very large parking lot.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Elaine, yes, that's the great thing about making up your own city. I did that in my first book, The Pastor's Wife. But then I found myself picturing a map of the town in my head, making sure that where I said things were really made sense. I tend to worry about things that most people wouldn't think twice over! LOL

Jennifer AlLee said...

Stephanie, I know what you mean about over-researching. That's the problem I run into when I write historicals. I get buried in the research, going down rabbit trails and looking for facts that actually won't affect the story at all.

Vince said...

A Tina Quote

Here’s a fortuitous quote to point on today’s post about realism. I just read this passage during my lunch time. The hero, Dan, asks the heroine, Beth, if she has ever thought about having children. Dan does not want his daughter, Amy, to be an only child.

His gaze met Beth’s. “What about you?”

“Oh, I’ve never really thought about it.”

“I don’t buy that. Everybody thinks about it at some point or another.”

“I’m not everybody.” She sighed. “Besides, I’m really not very experienced with kids.”

“Amy really like you.”

“I really like Amy.”

“No. I mean she really likes you.”

“Oh, she’s just clingy because she misses her grandmother.”

Dan looked at Beth over the rim of his coffee cup. “I’ve said this before, but you’re awfully hard on yourself.”

“I like to think I’m realistic.”

“Realistic. What does that mean?”

She played with the napkin. “It means that I am aware that I come with a lot of baggage.”

From “Stranded with the Rancher,” Tina Radcliffe

How’s that for being apropos? I haven’t had a literary experience like this one since Missy had a character state the novel’s Moral Premise in a conversation! Wow!

Missy Tippens said...

Jen, I draw a map of my fictional towns for that very reason! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Vince, I love that quote you shared from Tina's book. Great, realistic dialogue.

Sandy Smith said...

Jennifer, I don't really want to write about other places in my writing, unless it's about someplace exciting like New York and I can go stay there awhile for research! :) (Which isn't going to happen anytime soon.) I used to think people had to write about places that would be interesting to other people, so I thought nobody would care about Nebraska where I live. Of course, Nebraska is the perfect setting for my tornado novel.

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Cool premise, Jennifer. Sounds like a great read. Thanks so much for sharing with us today!

Missy Tippens said...

Grilled chicken for dinner! Y'all head on over! :)

I'll be back shortly to check in for more comments.

Mary Connealy said...

Jennifer your book sounds really intriguing. What a great, fresh idea.
Love the cover, too.

You know, I watch very little reality TV.
It sort of confuses me.

I watch Duck Dynasty sometimes and I always just wonder, "Who comes up with this stuff?"
They are all acting, but then they all AREN'T acting, exactly. Who knows what's real and what's not???
I mean...Uncle Si? Is that all put on? Is he really that much of a goof-ball?
Anyway, I let my mind wander into 'what's real and what's not' and pretty soon the show is over and I haven't watched it!

Mary Connealy said...

VINCE! I'm reading Tina's book RIGHT NOW!
I just started it though, so I don't want ANY SPOILERS!

Chill N said...

Wow, Jennifer, I bet finding out about the psychology of participating in reality shows was interesting.

I've only seen promos for them, and each time I find myself wondering what kind of person would participate and what psychology is used by the show's producers to get the reactions/results they think will attract the most viewers.

Such an unusual plot -- and an eye-catching cover!

Nancy C

Mary Connealy said...

But here's the thing about reality shows, keeping in mind I don't watch them much.

I watched a few minutes of The Biggest Loser...and there were FAT PEOPLE standing in front of a CAMERA in their underwear.

Now I ask you.....isn't that the basis of a nightmare? Isn't that what makes us wake up screaming?

Being forced to stand in front of a crowd in our underwear?

And now it's REAL and they've made a SHOW OUT OF IT!?

What's next??? A reality show where you spend the whole show knowing you're late for class and if you don't show up to take your final you won't graduate? And then you realize you've never been to this class all year? And then you can't find the building it's in????

Mary Connealy said...

I also watch Chopped sometimes but only if I'm flicking around and it's on and I'm desperate.

The beautiful of shows like that is, you don't have to know the BIG STORY.

You don't have to get up to speed. You can just veg out for a half hour and watch people run around and cook strange foods.

Mary Connealy said...

Oh, and American Idol. I watch that.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jennifer, your new book sounds great! I've never watched a reality TV show, but now I can find all about it from a book. I'd rather read than watch TV any day.

Julie Lessman said...


I am SO sorry I am late to the party, especially when you are on featuring one of my FAVORITE books!!!

As you know, I absolutely LOVED Last Family Standing, and am SO grateful to endorse it because it truly is a most unique and fun story to read.

Good subject today!! I cannot stress ENOUGH just how important it is that not only the plot be totally believable, but that all the little details involved are believable too.

I just finished a truly wonderful book, but there were some little details that stopped me dead in my tracks -- so much so that for the first time in my life, I honestly wished I was this person's editor so I could point these things out to her. If I were a judge in a contest, I would give her high marks, but take off for those details that detracted from the believability of the book.

Personally, I worry about believability all the time in my own novels, and on more than one occasion, I have presented a hero scenario to my husband to make sure that the hero's response in a given situation was believable from my hubby's point of view. Because the last thing I want is some picky gal like me wrinkling her nose when she comes to something that is not plausible in her opinion. ESPECIALLY if the gal writes a review ... ;)

I hope you do really well with this book, Jenn, because it's my favorite of all of your novels, and that's saying A LOT because I love all of your work!


Missy Tippens said...

Mary, you're so right!! I've watched a few episodes of The Biggest Loser and felt the same way about how brave they were to do what most overweight people fear most.

And that nightmare about missing class or not being able to find the room or not knowing the right schedule or what day it is???? I used to have that all the time!! And I'm not talking about when I was in college. I had it much later, as as adult.

Let's do our own reality show with that premise. ;)

Missy Tippens said...

Also, Mary… do you consider cooking shows reality TV?? If so, I watch a lot of them, because I watch Food Network a LOT.

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, I didn't realize you endorsed the book. How cool!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Missy, I'm just back because we were so busy with kids today, big, little, in-between... and so sweet!!!!

That story has me curious, too, and the man that asked me to write it is the uncle of the victim.... But honestly, it's one of those stories that wraps around your head and I'd have to figure out a happy ending, because this story didn't have a happy ending....

And with everything going on in this world, I love happy endings. I hope that doesn't sound lame!

But hope and joy are such wonderful factors.


Missy Tippens said...

Nancy C, I've been really curious myself how much influence the producers have. I know there have been characters on shows that stayed way later than I ever tought they should have. I figured the producers knew they were controversial (or whatever) and drew viewers.

Missy Tippens said...

Anna, I just saw your comment. Glad you stopped by!

Missy Tippens said...

Tough situation, Ruthy. I'd have to give it a happy ending, too.

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Cara! Just now saw your comment, too. I've been scrolling too quickly. :)

Julie Lessman said...

VINCE ... LOVE the 60's quote!!! I wasn't there, I guess ... ;)

Yes, MISSY ... I devoured it!!! Great book. :)

RUTHY ... zucchini bread, YES!!!


Mary Connealy said...

I don't know, Missy. I guess I don't consider like...Diners-Drive-ins and Dives a reality show but CHOPPED sort of seems like one.


I probably watch CHOPPED once a month and I just watched about half of one show and don't think I've seen it since winter. But it's a pastime.
What's that other one where a chef challenges the SUPER CHEFs.

Mario Batalli and and and Iron Chef, that's it. Bobby Flay...I had to look it up online. All I could remember was Kitchen Stadium.

btw I always suspect they know the SURPRISE ingredient, too many bizarre ingredients available.

I'm a skeptic!!!

They probably staged the moon landing the way....I've always sort of suspected Jackie O had her husband killed.

Why hasn't anyone investigated from that direction, huh?

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jennifer and welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for joining us today.

Looks like you are having fun. Thanks again.

Suzie Johnson said...

Jen, I simply can not WAIT to read this book! I'm so excited about it.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I just got home and saw Vince's very nice comment. Thank you, Vince.

Jennifer AlLee said...

Mary, Chopped is one of the shows I really enjoy! I have never liked reality shows that have to do with romance. The Bachelor leaves me cold! But I do enjoy shows where people actually have to use a quantifiable skill :)

Jennifer AlLee said...

JULIE!!! Thanks so much for the encouragement. You always make me smile :)

Mary Preston said...

I haven't watched Survivor for a few seasons now. I WILL be reading your book.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I'm with you. They HAVE to know that mystery ingredient ahead of time! Otherwise they'd never be able to jump in cooking. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Sandra, Suzie and Mary P! Glad you dropped by!

Jessica Johnson said...

This was very helpful to me, as one of my WIP's is about a reality dating show, which I based on the Bachelorette. I've scoured the internet for information on what goes on behind the scenes. It's nice to know I can make up most of the rules since it's "my show." Thanks for writing this!

Sara Ella said...

Hi Jennfer! I love that you mentioned Google earth. I wrote a post about that very tool on my blog not too long ago.

The first third of my novel is set in Manhattan. As much as researching this setting required as it is such an iconic and well known city, nothing helped my quite as much as traveling down the streets of the Upper West Side using Google Street view.

This helped with the tiny details like: is the door to Starbucks on the north or west side of the corner? (North) Can cars park on the curb at the particular entrance of Central Park I'm describing? (No, the sign says "no parking any time"). Little things like this help make the setting authentic, and while everything won't be exact, I think we owe something to our readers by way of research. By grounding my characters in this authentic world, it makes it much easier to believe there is a secret portal hidden in the Subway tunnel that can transport my characters to other realms haha:)

I would love to win a signed copy of Last Family Standing:)

Barbara Shelton said...

WOW, what a great article. I've always been aware that there is much more to writing than just an idea. I enjoy books with an educational side (i.e. research) and the remarkable insights I gain. I have three adopted children, one having met his birth family. I've always let them know if they were interested in finding their birth family - that I would help them. There is always that degree of curiosity which I consider normal. Thank you for this giveaway and the opportunity to win a wonderful book for my library.

Barb Shelton

Missy Tippens said...

Jessica, your story sounds fun! We actually watch the Bachelorette some around my house. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Sara Ella, I didn't realize you could see so much detail on Google Street. Very nice!

Missy Tippens said...

Barbara, I'm glad you dropped by!

Edwina said...

Usually people ask what I'm writing and when I say, "my memoir" I get these looks as if to say - "You've got to be kidding-who wants to read that?" :)

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

No wonder you write! Look at that bio!

Thanks for this. Quite practical.

I do an insane amount of research and use about 1/10 of it I guess. But it's important that I know the rest of it to make it work. Besides it's fun.

How these folks who do fantasy make UP worlds is just beyond me. Karen Hancock's work is stunning for that reason. You are breathing that air in her worlds. Amazing.

Sara Ella said...

Yes, Missy Tippens. Maybe not for every place, but since New York is so famous there are lots of images and views on there :)