Verisimilitude: Underwater Edition

Sheenah Archive, Writing Advice 2 Comments

Back in April during the A-Z Challenge, I chose verisimilitude for my letter V. I believe it’s super important for every writer to make sure that they suspend the belief of the reader and make them engaged in our world. We spend many a time trying to make the world as realistic as possible.

As I was skimming through Goodreads, I came across a review that someone wrote up for another author’s book. Keeping everything anonymous, let’s take a look at this review shall we? The reviewer rated the book a generous 3 stars, but stated that the review is actually a 2.5 star.

I had a lot of problems suspending belief in this short novella. This story takes place underwater, yet they talk. With their vocal chords. You need air moving through your vocal chords to speak which is why I have such a hard time believing this is possible.

I have problems with this statement as a reader, not a writer. There have been many, and I mean many movies that have an underwater scene when it comes to fantasy. One of the most popular underwater movies that millions of people have watched is The Little Mermaid. And if I remember correctly, not only were the mermaids and sea creatures talking underwater, but weren’t they also singing about it?


But before you start saying, “Oh Sheenah. That’s a cartoon. Who really believes cartoons?” Let’s look at Exhibit B, shall we? (And I’ll come back to the whole cartoon thing soon. Trust me.)


That’s right. Harry Potter has people talking underwater. With his vocal chords. And for the record, you can totally talk underwater. I just don’t recommend you do it a lot. Because you know, we’re not underwater creatures.


Another thing I had a hard time believing was when she saw someone’s tear falling down their face underwater. Wouldn’t that tear simply be lost in all the water?

Let’s go back to that whole statement I made you stop saying earlier. You know the one, “Oh Sheenah. That’s a cartoon. Who really believes cartoons?” For one, just because something is animated doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it any less seriously than a book or live-action movie. Disney movies, in particular, have always tried to instill a sense of realism. Animated children’s TV shows, on the other hand… Well, this should explain it:

Spongebob crying underwater

This is why I hate children’s TV shows these days.

But back to Disney. When Ariel had to cry underwater, there weren’t tears. But she was crying. So this point goes to the reviewer.

Ariel Crying

Look! No tears! Realism!

And in case you were wondering, this is what real crying underwater tends to look like.

Descendants crying underwater

If you haven’t seen the The Descendants yet, you should go see it.

Then there was the incident with her writing a letter with a pen underwater. How do you get a pen to work underwater? I suppose they have special pens and papers. I suppose I can let that one go for the sake of the story.

I’m baffled by this statement. Is this reader not aware that there’s actually a special water and paper that scuba writers can take underwater with them? Helps with scientists, especially. I’m not exactly sure how the pen and paper work, but I have seen it done. Perhaps if the Discovery Channel or National Geographic actually had non-reality shows on their networks again, the world wouldn’t be full of non-educated readers.

Scuba Diver writing

Look, Ma! I’m writing underwater, but this can’t be possible!!

Actually, you can even buy a waterproof notepad for yourself to put in the shower!

Have you ever had an idea while in the shower…?

The rest of the review hit on storyline and characterization and since I’ve never read the book, I have no choice but to glance at the other glowing 4-5 star reviews, but I digress. If you’re reading fiction, fantasy and science fiction in particular, there are certain things that you’re going to need to believe or just accept for the sake of story. I can’t tell you how many times I saw something wrong in science fiction (things waving in space, for one) but you just accept it. Especially if it’s something small. But if you see a number of things wrong with a book or movie and you know it’s wrong, by all means, go ahead and write a review and blog post about how horrible the book or movie is. But if you’re complaining about something like “Why are these water creatures talking underwater?” then maybe you need to reanalyze what you’re writing. Most readers would dismiss a claim like that anyway and you’re just making yourself sound whiny and nitpicky.

I think when it comes to verisimilitude, there’s a certain give and take that reader and writer have to do. If most media are writing about characters that, I don’t know, fall in love with stalkers, then as a reader I’m just going to accept that for the sake of the story. Would I write a 2 star review for that because I have a problem conceiving this as something that would happen in reality? No. But I would rant about it to my friends. Or you, my poor dear readers.

And just because I’ve always wanted to do this: That review has just been BUSTED.


You can call me the ReviewBuster.

Comments 2

  1. I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those annoying people to watch movies with because I’m always pointing out those little things that don’t make sense. I do it when critiquing for my CPs as well. But, yeah, I probably wouldn’t write a review with those type of things in it unless it was symptomatic of a poorly written book overall.

    And I soooo need one of those notepads for the shower!

    1. Post

      I’m still slightly baffled about this whole talking underwater thing. It’s a fantasy thing that everyone has encountered and you just accept it. But yes, I do enjoy pointing out things that can’t possibly happen in movies, especially B movies. Bring on the popcorn!

      I think you can pick one of those notepads up on Amazon.

  2. Totally agree with you. If we’re reading sci-fi, fantasy, mythology or fairy tales, we have to suspend reality. That’s half the fun of reading these genres, the unrealistic becomes the reality.

    Now when I read historical fiction and historical mysteries, I want my authors to be accurate with the realities of the time period.

    1. Post

      Yes! By all means, if someone is writing historical fiction of any shape or form every little detail MUST be accurate. I don’t want to read something that says “Thomas Jefferson was our first president” unless it’s one of those alternate reality historical fictions, ya know?

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