Monday, February 11, 2013

Believability is Relative

Last night, I posted on Twitter that I had finally started watching the new Fox show The Following, and I was really digging it. That post sparked a discussion with one of my friends about how he wasn't enjoying the show as much as I was, partially because he didn't find the main premise believable.

For those who haven't checked it out, The Following is about a serial killer who has inspired a cult following that he influences from behind bars. The agent who originally caught him is called in to try and thwart the killer's plan to have all of his followers begin committing murders, using him as their inspiration. The killer himself is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.

What I pointed out during our discussion is that when it comes to horror (and fiction in general), I don't want creators to be restricted by what is believable in the real world, only what is believable in the worlds they create. For example, if a writer builds a world around the core premise that there is a portion of the population that has super powers, I will accept that premise, because if I don't, then I can't really go any further into that world. Some examples:

  • In the Friday the 13th series, Jason Voorhees can walk faster than all of his victims can run, and he is a near-indestructible force.
  • In Hellraiser, a Rubik's Cube-like device can open a portal to Hell.
  • In Evil Dead, reading from a ancient book can raise demon spirits that will possess the living.
  • In Weaveworld, an entire world exists within a magical rug.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, a piece of jewelry can bring about the end of the world.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

When a new story in introduced to a reader/watcher, there is a certain amount of world-building that needs to take place. I tend to give a creator a lot of room to build that world--whether it be the first several chapters of a book, issues of a comic series, episodes of television show, or the first entry in a new film franchise. Once the creator has established their world, then I have some expectation they will adhere to the rules they have set up for that world. That, to me, is where the believability of a particular story comes in. When the story is new however, I want the creator to go as far out there as possible with his or her ideas.