Every writer wants their books to seem real. Or at least real enough to please readers, right? But what does that even mean?
I don’t know if I’ve seen the Matrix too many times (If you haven’t doubted your reality after that…) or if the emotional fallout of last year has made me too introspective. But I keep coming back to this:
How Much of What I Think of as Real / Normal Came from Books?
I read a lot. I’ve been known to go through 6 or more full novels in a day. Granted, I don’t get much else done those days, but there have still been a number of those days each year since I was a kid. I’ve definitely read over 100 books this year alone.
I’m not saying this to boast about how much I read. Since I read to escape, and that high number of books represents a lot of days escaping instead of being productive, I don’t consider it something to boast about.
My point is that I’ve almost certainly read about more human interactions than I’ve actually had.
So a big part of what I consider normal behavior is really what a handful of authors considered normal behavior, right? Yes, I’m sure the time I’ve actually spent with other people influenced it; however, looking at the huge difference in percentages, I have to really question how much those books have shaped my idea of reality.
Which… is kind of terrifying.
As a person, it’s disorienting and frightening to find the framework of your life has that thin a foundation. As an author, it adds a big weight of responsibility. I don’t know about you, but, personally, the idea of shaping how people see reality is more than I signed on for.
What If People Don’t Really Act Like They Do In Books or Movies?
Knowing it’s fiction doesn’t stop us from accepting some or all of the actions as realistic. Just think about all the people you know who assume that anything they read on FB is true (*sob*).
Consider people from different cultures. If you grew up in a fairly mono-cultural community, then, the only impression you have of people from other cultures are…
- What you’re told by people around you (friends, family, etc.)
- What you see in television shows and movies
- What you see online or in social media
- What you read in books
When you think about it in that context, it’s no wonder we have so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about each other!
How Do You Make a Book Seem Real?
Taking into account that I might not even know what’s real, how on Earth do I make a book seem real to other people?
Come to think of it, is the goal actual reality or perceived reality? Should I even be trying to make my characters behave the way actual people behave (in reality as opposed to fiction)? Or should I make them follow the accepted behaviors of characters in fiction?
Too Many Difficult Questions
I need a nap. And a tranquilizer. Or a couch fort.
This kind of thinking is stressful and exhausting. And I don’t have any more answers than when I started! Somebody, please, tell me that I’m overthinking it, and that reality is what I always thought it was.
2 thoughts on “What Is Real?”
I have this same quandary. Something that was highly realistic would probably be boring even if I knew what it was. Maybe what we want to shoot for is plausible more than real?
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That does sound easier. I definitely couldn’t write a book that was realistic to my life – not one that people would want to read!