B is for Believability

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Noun.Believability: the quality of being believable or trustworthy
Source: The Free Dictionary

Believable: capable of being believed, especially as within the range of known possibility or probability
Source: Merriam Webster

When I open the covers of a book, I like:

Believable situations and/or plot lines. The only quarter I’m prepared to give is if I’ve ventured into the Fantasy or Science Fiction genres and even then, you gotta make me buy into the world and conundrum you’ve created.  

Believable character traits. Nobody I know is even-tempered or happy, bubbly, all the time. The few people I know who are happy all the time are those that other people find annoying and usually have plans to throttle.

Realistic solutions to knotty problems. Winning the lottery is possible, but easier and less absorbing than watching a character have to pawn a prized possession and struggle to get it back. If he does win the lottery, show me some complications that come from that piece of good fortune, as life never returns to normal after a lottery win.

Being able to sympathise with a character because I understand their situation. Rather than telling me what problems he/she is having, show me their mettle through their emotional state and the unique way in which they handle their challenges.

Simple stuff, and all I ask when I decide to read a book. Woo me. Make me believe in your protagonist and the supporting cast of characters.

I’m off to mingle, but check back later, I’ll be announcing the winner of the book from the last Take Five With… interview.

Useful links:
Top 10 Questions for Creating Believable Characters 
Using Body Language to Create Believable Characters 
Create Believable Characters
Writing for Kids: Create Believable Characters
Excerpt from Handbook of Digital Media in Entertainment and Arts

Jamaican food of the day: Bulla - a dense cake (for want of a better term) made of flour, baking soda, sugar and/or molasses, ginger and nutmeg. It’s low on the totem pole of baked goods as it’s not really considered cake or pastry. It’s cheap and popular and can be eaten with butter, cheese or avocado (yummy!). Bulla is Latin for bubble; and is also a fluid-filled blister (eeew!) 


Bammy - A flatbread made from cassava from the time of the original inhabitants Arawaks or (Tainos, the politically correct term). When dipped in milk and fried until golden brown, these make a smashing 
combination with Ackee & Saltfish or fried fish.


  1. Thanks for visiting me. Jamaica, how wonderful. Our two countries couldn't be more different like Hot and Cold. I would love to travel there. Ok,enough rambling. I like your word for today. I am the sort that would like to believe anything is possible, even believing in fairies :)

  2. Great B word. I'll need to think about this as I work through my revision.

  3. We used to make molasses! A very long process, whew!

    I love your word choice for today. Especially if writing sci/fi or fantasy, you need to have some believability in it.

    Great post :)

  4. I'm so with you on believability. And I like learning about your food. I've never been to Jamaica, but it's on my list.

  5. Siv, thanks for dropping in. For a while there, I did believe in fairies. Too much Enid Blyton at an early age. :D

    Carrie, good plan.

    WC - making molasses? Cool stuff! I know it taste good in other things, but by itself, molasses is evil. :)

    Carol, I figured I'd put something in there for people who pop by but are not interested in writing. I do use the food as part of my writing to make things interesting.

  6. I've never had Bulla or Bammy, but they're making my mouth water!

    stopping by from the a to z

  7. Loved your post, some really sound advice. You have a very attractive blog.

    Thanks so much for signing up for my blogaversary blogfest. I'm excited.

  8. I love what you write. I love that you slash out words for better word choices. Your entries make me hungry. Wonderful job on discussing believable characters.

  9. Baygirl, thanks for stopping by. I have lots more foodstuff to share. :D

    Wendy, thanks. I'm excited as well about what I plan to do with my entry.

    Thank you, Jeanne!

    Nice to meet you too, Karen!

  10. For me it’s easy to believe in the fantasy and sci-fi worlds people create. Characters are harder to buy into when they fall short of the believability factor.

  11. Bulla and Bammy look fantastic!

    You're so right on believability. It's especially a problem with genre fiction, where a stylized, not particularly reality-based template is in place (like romance or fantasy or those thrillers where the hero gets beat up every hour or so.) What makes them compelling is strong, believable characters, despite the surreal setting.

  12. So true, Holly. Characters need to be such that we can believe in them, even though we know they aren't real.

    Anne, romance novels are what I can point to from experience as having some cookie cutter type heroes and heroines, especially when they're written for a line or category.

  13. I really enjoyed your post. And I'm definitely going to have to google a recipe for Bulla. :-)

  14. I so agree! Characters and situations need to be believable. Where can I find recipes for bulla and bammy? They look delicious.

  15. I 100% agree JL. The best stories are those that ring with truth, even if it's just a nugget that adds plausibility. Great post!

  16. Great writing tips for characterization. And your Jamaican breads made me so hungry! Nice to meet you, J.L.

  17. Good post! I agree with you that novels have to be believable for me to enjoy reading them.

    If something snaps me out of that vital suspension of disbelief, I hate the book.


  18. Believable will absolutely drag you into a novel. None of us are perfect, so the characters shouldn't be. Great post!

  19. Thanks, C.R. Good to have you and and glad you enjoyed the post.

    Cass, Recipe link here http://www.getjamaica.com/Jamaican%20Recipes%20-%20Jamaican%20Bulla%20Recipe2.asp
    or you can Google 'Recipe for bulla'
    The bammy is a bit more labour intensive in that it calls for the grating of Cassava, but here's a link. http://www.jamaicamix.com/Food/Bammy.html

    Thanks, Ali. Give me some truth or something I can believe in and I'm good to go.

    Thanks for stopping in Marsha. It's good to meet you too.

    Misha, I know what you mean. I'll stop reading just to think 'now what's the likelihood of that happening?'

    Rebecca, for sure, no perfect characters exist.

  20. I believe that believable believability belies the betrothal of the Science Fiction/Fantasy genres. Great "B" stuff!

  21. Totally in agreement concerning believability - it's absolutely crucial!

    And now I want some Bulla. I don't even care that it's another name for a fluid-filled blister. :-)

  22. Love the believability links, and I love the little glimpses of Jamaica! One day I'll visit!

  23. Jeffrey, you're a hoot!

    TRR - Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Amie, Thanks for stopping in.


Don't be shy, I'd love to hear what you think.