Credulous or Incredulous

Which type are you? Someone who trusts and believes people until they give you cause not to, or someone who approaches relationships with scepticism, waiting for proof that you are justified in bestowing your trust? I know which I am, and despite the occasional disappointment, prefer to trust people from the outset. Naive maybe, but it works for me. In this respect, I also operate on the dictum of Russell Lynes who noted that, ‘It is always well to accept your own shortcomings with candour but to regard those of your friends with polite incredulity.’

Credible or Incredible

As fiction writers, we struggle with the gulf between reality and unreality. From the reader’s viewpoint, should our story be credible or incredible? Do we want them to be credulous or incredulous when they tackle our finely wrought scribblings? As a general rule, it is probably safe to say that if you write sci-fi or dystopian novels, you will tend more to the incredible, while other genres veer more to the credible. There is no absolute rule in this respect, but in attempting to hone our craft, we probably all experience the problem highlighted by David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas that ‘Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.’ How often have I sat writing and when I read it back wonder how it came from me, from my brain. But I know it did: I just sat and wrote it. The mind is truly a wonderful thing.

Good writers recognise the spectrum between our adjectives is what creates the tension that keeps readers engaged. The balance between fact and fiction, reality and unreality lifts our readers out of mundane everyday lives into worlds of hope, possibilities and enjoyment.

I, for one, am grateful to live in an age when we are swamped with reading possibilities and glad to be drowned in the deluge of material out there. In this sense, I take issue with James Russell Lowell who asserted that ‘Incredulity robs us of many pleasures, and gives us nothing in return.’ I live to wallow in credible and incredible books, which give much pleasure and everything in return.

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