Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reality vs. Entertainment

I remember once some bit I saw. It was probably a cartoon in a newspaper, I'm not sure, but it went something like this...

Character 1: I can't believe how much television you watch, don't you just want to get out in to the real world and see real people?
Character 2: Eh, real life and real people aren't nearly as entertaining. If they were I would just section off the corner of my living room and pay some people to stand there and make me laugh.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Well, for every author I believe there is a dilemma - how do you create characters, settings, and situations that are both real and entertaining? A writing professor once told me something that I have found to help quite a bit. You have to observe life around you and take notes.

Most people wouldn't consider their lives as a whole as something worthwhile of being captured in the pages of a book. However, we all have our days and moments that stand out. Those moments stay with us because there is something in them that makes us see the extraordinary amidst the ordinary.

Great writers don't try and invent new situations and challenges that will thrill the reader with their never before imaginedness.  Instead, they take the ordinary ups and downs of life and show them in a way that allows the reader to see reality but to see it in a new and refreshing way. This doesn't discount fantasy, sci-fi, and ect. I love fantasy; often my writing has some fantastical elements to it. However, the problems and the situations are still grounded in the reality of what I know and what I believe the reader can relate at least in some way to. I know that I’ve read stories and seen movies where the writers just demand too much suspension of disbelief and it just feels clunky and cheaply done like the author just threw it together without consideration for the why’s, how’s, when’s, and who’s of their story – just relying on the where’s and the what’s.

So what do you think? How do you walk the line between writing something that is freshly entertaining and making it real enough to be believed?

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