Verisimilitude is the extent to which the literary text is believable, or the extent to which it imitates life. Even when stories are far-fetched, such as with science fiction, readers must be willing to "suspend disbelief" and think that the story could actually occur. Authors want their stories-regardless of how close to real life the events are-to have verisimilitude.
Mark Twain increases the believability, or verisimilitude of several of his works by having characters use the dialect and vernacular speech of the American South. For example, Huck Finn's speech makes his character more believable:
I didn't want to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because the widow didn't like it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn't no objections... But by-and-by pap got too handy with his hick'ry, and I could't stand it. I was all over with welts. He got to going away so much, too, and locking me in. Once he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful lonesome.
Ray Bradbury increases verisimilitude in his novel Fahrenheit 451 (a novel about a futuristic society in which firemen burn books) by including references to a "long ago" society that resembles current reality:
They walked still further and the girl said, "Is it true that long ago firemen put fires out instead of
going to start them?"
"No. Houses. have always been fireproof, take my word for it."
"Strange. I heard once that a long time ago houses used to burn by accident and they needed
firemen to stop the flames."
She glanced quickly over. "Why are you laughing?"
J.K. Rowling increases verisimilitude in the Harry Potter series by creating many parallels between Harry's magical wizarding world and the typical experience of an English boarding school student. For example, the students have sports that they play-quiddich, exams they must take, and there are budding love relationships among the girls and boys.
Literary Terms Examples