Monday, December 2, 2013

Too real to be believable?

Ana talks about a scene based on a real experience

I just wrote a scene where my heroine's family and the hired-hand hero are summoned to a neighbor's farm to help corral seven cows that had broken out again. The bull is a Jersey with long, sharp horns. He knows how to use them.
Jerseys are smart, nimble cows. In a mixed breed herd, they are invariably the leaders. The ratio of body mass to brain is lower than with the much bigger Holstein. Think race car vs a station wagon.

I wrote this scene based on a vivid memory. When we first moved to our farm, I was chased by an ill-tempered half-Jersey, half Guernsey bull with mean horns. The neighbor had loaned him to breed our four milk cows. I went out to get them for the evening milking, and the bull decided to show he was boss.
I'd walked the middle of the pasture. The cows--with the bull's encouragement--weren't budging.  I had to bring the cows in, so I started circling behind them. The bull lowered his head and started toward me. At first, I waved my arms and shouted at him. I was not raised on a farm. 'Halt' meant stop.  When he kept coming, I turned and ran. Fast.
Thinking he'd tire when I was away from his 'girls,' I zigged and I zagged. He kept coming, shaking his head in a display of manly bovine superiority.  The cows watched with great interest--and probably amusement.
I reached the fence, threw myself on the ground and rolled under the electric wire.
He stopped, stared at me and snorted. Then he turned around and trotted back to his ladies. Victorious.
I told my husband he could bring in the cows.
Vern, the neighbor, thought the episode was a hoot. Apparently, all the neighbors were thinking we, this young city family, wouldn't last more than a year or two on the farm.

I subbed the chapter to a crit group for feedback. One writer friend questioned whether a cow would charge a person. In her experience, Angus cows were docile and would never charge a person. (True--unless you get between a mama Angus and her newborn calf. Then watch out.) Another wondered why the neighbor didn't simply repair the fence and prevent the animals from escaping.

I intend to keep the scene as is--and follow up with another where the bull breaks out and attacks the heroine. The hero will have to save her. (Cue the romance.)

My question is: can a scene be too real to be believable? 


  1. I don't think so. I think having a scene real adds authenticity to the book and draws the reader into the world of the book even more. I think it is importance to convince the reader and draw them into the alter reality they are reading about. In my opinion if you have done that, you have done a good job.♥

  2. A couple of comments here from Facebook folks (who seemed to think I had written this post! - hence the need for the author's name on the first line please!)

    Sue wrote: My OH who used to milk his own herd of Ayrshire cows says Jersey bulls are among the most dangerous of the dairy breeds, because they are light on their feet and very sharp tempered. Dairy bulls are not, for instance, permitted to be grazed in fields where a footpath crosses, although beef-breed bulls (Herefords etc) are OK in a field-plus-footpath if accompanied by cows or heifers. So go for it. Your story is believable!

    Jackie wrote: Jersey bulls certainly are bad-tempered little b*ggers. I know from experience.

    My own comment is that any incident written from experience will have that extra ring of authenticity.

  3. I agree with Paula. Your own experience will lend an aura of authenticity that will register with readers.

  4. I say keep it. Writing from real experience makes your story come alive.

    And there definitely needs to be some real along with the romance in order for readers to relate.

  5. Thanks, Kathy! I appreciate the thumbs-up.

    Sorry, Paula. I worked all weekend and was rushed this am. Sue and Jackie related experiences similar to my own.

    Thanks, Jen and Debra!

  6. I love the authenticity of your scene, Ana - makes for a great story scene too!