I just read an article about a bunch of PETA activists who showed up a
motorcycle event throwing water balloons filled with red water to
protest them wearing leather. Bikers are sensitive people and protective
of their leather which they consider the only attire that can truly
handle the wind and cold when riding. The title of the article was “When
you mess with the bull – you get the horns.” I don’t know what they
expected to happen but police found them wrapped in duct tape and thrown
in dumpsters, and one hapless soul was duct taped to a tree and used
for a urinal. I’m thinking that they just did not think this through
before protesting this group and should have stuck to little old ladies
wearing animal fur.

Why am I talking about this?
Because it reminded me how often I see things in real life that simply
would not be believable if written into a book. It happens all the time.

Getting
the realism right without becoming unbelievable to readers can be a
problem. Back in my early writing days I had a New York editor reject me
because the western-themed book I was pitching that had some rodeo
scenes in it was “just not how cowboys would talk in a rodeo.” When I
asked if she had ever been to a rodeo she said no. I’ve ridden in them,
and even put one on for five years as the event manager. Which one of us
would you guess would know more about appropriate dialogue?

I
was, of course, but actually she was right. As I learned more about the
craft I learned that we should never try to ‘reproduce’ dialogue but
should hint at it. Large stretches of dialogue in a heavy brogue gets
very tiresome to read very quickly. I would have gotten that
explanation, but telling me I didn’t know how they talk was not the
right way to put it. But again, too much realism can put editors off and
cause a project to be rejected.

I would love to see
some feedback on this. What have you seen in real life that people
simply would not believe if we made it up and wrote it into our books?