Monday, January 12, 2009

Realism in stories

I understand we are writing fiction. I understand we are writing fantasy, but the stories you put togethere still require a huge amount of realism to make everything flow. Without this, the stories turn into huge failures.

When it comes to realism failures, I see more mistakes happening when it comes to the characterizations. For the reader to be able to relate to the characters in the book, they have to do things that normal people would do. Too often, I am seeing writers let the plots take over and they forget to see what the character would likely do.

Let me explain.

In a romantic suspense story, if the heroine is being stalked by some sexual preditor, the odds are pretty dang good that they would not suddenly find themself drawn sexually to the cop in charge of the case. Along the same lines, the odds are that the cop is not going to become involved. I checked this one out and, although it happens, the officers are pretty good about not becoming involved during a case because it will potentially screw up the criminal processing once they get to the trial.

Let's try the contemporary romances, shall we? I see many stories where the main character, wanting a change in her life, decides to make a serious career change. Oh, let's say going from corporate lawyer/account to running a catering business. It is amazing (A) how their basic knowledge of cooking can turn into this block buster business; and (B) the banks loan someone that amount of money with no experience. Heck, no wonder we're in such a financial crisis.

Should we try historicals? This is one where I see a huge number of realism errors. No, I am not so much talking about flaws in the historical facts (although there are frequently a ton of these mistake), I am simply talking about the characters again. There are heroines that speak their mind to royalty, even though they are in the servant or worker class? Royalty becoming married to this lower class? Hmmmmm, odds are it doesn't happen.

The key is to really stop and think how a regular, everyday human being would act. If it seems like it is awkward, it probably is.


  1. LOL
    I'm cringing with the historicals. Hehee.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Hoo boy. While I agree with your assessment of realism failure in romantic suspense and historicals, I've lost count of the number of big sellers that feature the heroine falling in love with either the cold cruel cop, or worse yet, the purported child rapist. As for the historicals, the cross-class romance is an absolute staple! What to do? more crazines for writers. Can't win. As usual.So sad, too bad.Why writers drink...

  3. I see this failing in lots of movies as well. Like having black people on equal footing with whites in 1800s or earlier. Having black people in England during the Camelot times, etc.

    People didn't travel around the world in our earlier history. They pretty much stayed in their own neighborhoods. Only the occasional explorer moved around to different cultures.

    Makes me not want to watch or read further in a show/book.

  4. Ugh.
    I don't even want to know what bestseller features a love affair with a child rapist.

  5. PS- unintentional misunderstanding there. The male lead always turns out to be unfairly targeted. The heroine discovers he is a sensitive and (HOT) guy. Don't think it was Tami Hoag, but that genre. Very popular plot staple. Also cold cop who turns to be disappointed in love, but awakes to our heroine's charms. Aplle pie stuff. Always works.

  6. To Anonymous 9:27

    While I would agree that there are movies that stretch the imagination regarding political correctness (Kevin Costner as Robin Hood, hot as he was/is comes to mind) but imho Morgan Freeman was a great addition.
    Contrary to the older revisionist history books that refused to mention contributions and achievements of those of African descent, but many other minorities, there were those of African descent during the time periods you mention. The word "Moor" might ring a bell, as in the moor Othello.
    And freed slaves, as well as those born free worked along side whites. So while you may not feel like reading those books or seeing those movies. Some of use say it's about time.
    Just some individuals you may not have heard of that were bi-racial:
    Alexandre Dumas: wrote the Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask.
    His son, Alexandre Dumas, fils (Jr.) wrote Camille. Considered the greatest Russian poet, Alexandre Pushkin's great grandfather was of African descent.

  7. Sorry, my above post should read:
    Contrary to the older revisionist history books that refused to mention contributions and achievements of those of African descent,
    *but also many other minorities, there were those of African descent during the time periods you mention.*

    Thanks, and may I also add that individuals seeking adventure came in all ethnicities, not just spunky heroines who stow away on ships to fall for the pirate captain.
    (I really don't mind reading those kind of books, honestly)

  8. Scott. I know you are trying so hard to help us, and I so appreciate the thought and honesty reflected in every one of your comments, but while in my heart I know you are absolutely correct, I also feel as if I have been told to jump up and down, and hold still at the same time.
    The work must be unique, have a new and exciting twist, but at the same time, be immediately recognizable and immediately fit into a time-worn genre for marketing. Is it any easier to be an agent right now? Please say "NO." God bless you and yours.
    Strangely enough, while lying in bed last night, I realized this is exactly what I must do-turn the book that interests me into a genre piece. Blah. It deserves more. Readers deserve more. I expect the editor to tell me she already has twenty like this on file. I want to yell "Burger Back!" Pay me my seven an hour and let me go home in peace.