I know verisimilitude is a long word but it is the perfect word for what it means. Sometimes one word, and none other, will do. I came across the word, verisimilitude, for the very first time in a creative writing class. It had been scribbled in the margin of one of my short stories by the professor. “Good verisimilitude,” she had said. It happened to be a short story set during the Depression, with a lot of dialogue. The characters spoke in good ol’ rural East Texas vernacular.
Now, I know that lingo very well, in all its shades and off-colors. I was taught early on to write what I know, and apparently, the teaching stuck, for the particular jargon common to this area surfaces often in my writing. The East Texas culture seems to dominate the gene pool from which most of my bucolic (I have always wanted to use that word!) characters evolve. I know that a fictitious person, of any particular ethnicity, using uncharacteristic words, speech patterns, or body language, would finish me off before I even get started, discrediting me completely as a writer of true-to-life fiction.
I have to admit, the nature of the language and the acts of some of my characters, which is most definitely the case in my novel, The Velvet Bridge, often conflict with my own inhibitions. However, verisimilitude in my work must prevail. Any reflection of real life must portray events as vividly and believably as if the reader was actually witnessing them. Whether or not the reader approves of the reality being witnessed, or of the language being spoken, is a moot point. However, I have been subjected to some criticism, for the use of a few “bad” words, which sometimes a character insists upon using. I suspect this is a common problem among writers, one with which we must come to terms in our own way.
It has been said you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, and that is so true. Some things just cannot be prettied up and some characters absolutely refuse to speak and behave politely! The character says what she says, and he does what he does, pure and simple. As a character-driven writer, dedicated to verisimilitude by creating honest and mature fiction—work that is believable and true to itself—I will never censor my characters in order to appease my own hang-ups, or the folks back home.