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Verisimilitude is described as the quality of appearing to be true or depicting reality. In storytelling, the audience contributes to the experience by their "willing suspension of disbelief". The more the story resembles reality -- even in small details -- the easier it is for the audience to engage. Realism and plausibility are especially important ingredients in an alternate reality game (ARG).
Storytellers use many tricks to achieve this effect:
- References to popular culture
- References to other works of art, music, or literature
- Naturalistic dialogue (speakers interrupting each other, mumbling, losing their train of thought, etc.)
- Intentionally flawed craft (jerky camera work or lens flares in computer generated images, etc.)
- Human foibles and errors
Art with no verisimilitude is criticized as being "stagey", "mannered", "fanciful", "false", "surreal", or just plain "bad".
In some postmodern works of art, the artist intentionally draws attention to the lack of reality. This can lead to an unemotional coldness sometimes known as "Brechtian distanciation" after the German playwright Bertolt Brecht who made a point of reminding his audience that they were watching a play and not reality.
The standards of verisimilitude constantly change with audience tastes and cultural trends. French audiences in the 1890s watching the first silent film footage of an oncoming train ran screaming from the theaters. Marlon Brando's early film work was considered groundbreaking in its realism to audiences of the time, whereas those same performances are now considered overwrought and theatrical. Quentin Tarantino's dialogue was once thought to be shocking because of both its bluntness and its meandering discussions of life and pop culture.
An example of verisimilitude is the usage of what is known as a "false document". This attempts to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal. This intends to fool the audience briefly into thinking that what is being presented is actually a fact.
- One example of this is The Third Policeman, written by Flann O'Brien. It includes quotes from the works of a fictitious Irish philosopher named de Selby and also has numerous footnotes and references to other fictitious authors writing about de Selby and his books.
- It can also be argued that the various Hanso Correspondence with real companies such as Hyperion Publishing and DaimlerChrysler also form a "false document", as they increase the level of realism within the game.