When you write fiction, you've been granted the privilege of getting to make stuff up. But one caveat remains: It can be weird, wacky, raucous and ridiculous—but it must also be believable.
Take for an example the story about Bernie. The movie Bernie opened this past weekend and was on my to-do list until I realized it was released on a few screens and none in my neighborhood. So, it remains on my list but will require a little less spontaneity on my part for me to see it. (Julie did manage to go, lucky duck.)
But back to Bernie: Jack Black plays the true-life Bernie, a small-town Texas funeral director who befriends a wealthy widow (played by Shirley Maclaine) whom no one likes. Once tired of her demeaning and demanding behavior, he snaps, kills her and then goes to great lengths to convince the town that she’s still alive. Kind of a Weekend at Bernie’s meets Driving Miss Daisy. Except Miss Daisy is a bitch.
It seems every day, whether it’s something I read in the news or a story recounted to me by a friend, I find myself thinking: People don’t really do that, do they? And yet they do.
The trick in writing fiction that is simultaneously entertaining/outlandish and yet believable—one where a lovable funeral director can shoot an old woman and stuff her in the deep freeze—is creating characters who act as you might expect them to when they’re pushed to their limits. As in Bernie’s case, makes you WANT him to do it or, at the very least, believe he is capable and that she, on some level, got what she deserved.