Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Verisimilitude and Rigged Elections: Fiction Has to Make Sense

“He who would keep a secret must first keep secret that he has a secret to keep.”
--Sir Humphrey Appleby, Yes, Minister, BBC comedy

Novels—unlike presidential campaigns, apparently—need to have verisimilitude.  Fiction by its nature is not true, but for most fictional forms, the action and plot must be plausible, believable within a larger social-cultural context (“like truth”); and at the very least be plausible within the boundaries of its own genre.  In my new novel, the thriller, Faithless Elector, a group of conspirators try to alter the outcome of the upcoming presidential election by manipulating the Electoral College, and they sow the seeds of controversy by claiming the election was rigged in Illinois (p.6).  In the novel, the two main parties seem to be seeking to engineer the outcome in Illinois. 

Here in the real world, the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has not only continued to disparage the validity of voting, but has increased his condemnation and dismissal of any result that does not send him to the White House as “rigged,” citing partisan Republican Party talking-points regarding fraudulent voting.
System Rigged ad, Trump for president-PA

At no point while writing Faithless Elector did I contemplate suggesting that the outcome could be engineered by fraudulent voting; that is, one voter impersonating another.  As one of the main characters in the novel puts it, anyone breaking the law in this way would “seek to minimize their profile”(p.13). Only a tiny number of people can know about it, because the more people who are participating, the greater the chances of a slip-up:  three people together can probably keep a secret; 10 people, maybe; 100 or 1,000 people cannot. 

When you get into the kinds of numbers you would need to engineer an outcome by fraudulent voting (per Sir Humphrey, above) you probably couldn’t even keep secret the fact you had such a secret organization.  To organize—and to do it quietly—enough fraudulent voters across the nation to tip a race in one direction or another would be impossible.  In the fictional world, if I had tried it, critics would have said the plot “lacked verisimilitude” (if they were kind).

Are fiction writers, then, held to a higher truth standard?  As another thriller writer, Tom Clancy, would have it:  “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." 

To read a free excerpt of Faithless Elector, click HERE

Publishers Weekly says Faithless Elector is a “fast-moving topical thriller.”  Its “surprising twists add up to a highly suspenseful read.”

Follow James!  Twitter:  @jamesmccrone4 and on Facebook at Faithless Elector by James McCrone

Faithless Elector, by James McCrone is available through Amazon.

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