I just finished reading this book called The Sleeping Father. Matthew Sharpe wrote this book. Soft Skull Press published it in 2003. It is 291 pages long. I read half of the book in one afternoon. Then I took some time to do other things. Then I finished the book one evening a few days later. I read it quickly. I also laughed at certain points while I read it. It is very 'ironic,' the book is. Characters say the opposite of what they mean. Characters do the opposite of what they want to do. All of the characters are very clever, except for the father, who had a stroke, which made him less clever than he was before. Before he had the stroke, he was really clever.

This book made me think of writing workshops. I have complained about writing workshops to several people recently. I am going to type out what this book made me think about writing workshops.

There are several things that happen in the book that I can see someone thinking, 'this is not believable.' I can see that person writing down that statement on the back of a stapled copy of this novel so they will have something to say in workshop the next day. I probably at one point have done something like this, said, 'this is not believable' about some story in a workshop. Example: at one point, the kid in this novel sneaks his dad out of the hospital room for a Thanksgiving dinner. The father just woke up from a coma a few days before, or something like that, and the kid dresses him up and sneaks him out. This is a seventeen year old kid. What could possibly be not believable about this: how does no one see this happen? how does the one guy that sees it happen let it continue to happen until the boy and his father are out of the hospital? Someone would have stopped this from happening in real life. But Sharpe does not write that into the scene, so it doesn't happen in the novel

I think when someone says that something is 'not believable' in a story, it can mean at least three things: 1) the writer has not written the thing well enough to make the language make it be believable or 2) the reader is lazy or 3) some combination of both. There are probably other things as well, but I am focusing on these things, because I have worried most about these things before. What matters least is the believability of the thing in the story, I think. I am assuming that this thing is what is best for the story, that it is the best choice out of the many choices the writer has to make in writing the story. So let's assume that for now?

So in the case of 2), the reader usually says, 'this is unbelievable because my friend is depressed, and when you are depressed you don't think this way.' The reader here is not enjoying the story, but is worrying about her friend's depression. The reality that she has lived directly affects her reading of the book so much so that it gets in the way.

In the case of 1), the writer maybe should try to write in such a way as to convince the reader that his version is the most believable, that she should not worry so much about her depressed friend and instead try to worry about the story. If a writer can do this, then he somehow connects the reality of his book to whatever his reader has experienced in her reality.

Does this make sense?

I feel like I am talking too clinically about writing right now. I don't think I said this how I wanted to say this.


I read this post by Erika Dreifus. Her post made me think about this a little bit and then The Sleeping Father made me think about it more.