Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reality Bites

"Is it real, or did you just make that up?" This phrase marches through my head when I write a scene. My deeper subconscious houses the ever present Ugly Inner Critic. At times he's silent, but his snickers aren't lost on me whenever I wonder if the scene I've just written will end up at the end of someones finger point.

The finger point, just my metaphor for whenever someone else reads my work and says things such as, "A guy wouldn't say something that," or, "Not a very sexy name for a hero," and my personal favorite, "A horse would never act like that." Hasn't anyone seen Mr. Ed? Just kidding, but still...

Let's get something straight, shall we? I write fiction, my loose interpretation of make-believe. In the worlds I create, yeah, a guy would "say something like that," heroes won't have "sexy" names, and horses get to act any way that I want them to. I'm writing to entertain, as well as provide an escape from reality.

Last week author Erica Hayes made a guest appearance at Magical Musings. Here's something she said that resonated with me, "The more like real life, the more boring the book." I screamed at the monitor, "Amen, sister!" because she validated what I always felt, but through the opinions of others, I began to suppress.

And here's something else. The things perceived as un-real by the "finger-pointers" I've experienced in real life. What can I say? My past is filled with weirdness. And I take license to embellish on reality as a fiction writer, because I CAN.

As writers, shouldn't we pay attention to the unreal things that happen in real time? I do. The unexpected things people have said or done stay with me, almost like they're tattooed to my brain. Yet, comments from the "finger-pointers" stay with me while I write, as if they know my characters better than me.

And that's the point. No one knows my characters or my story better. The situations I come up with, crazy as they are, come from weird experiences in my life. My past is sprinkled with exceptions to the rules, which have fed my imagination. I refuse to "get real."

So the next time I sit down with the Epic (my metaphor/pet name for WIP, not to be confused with War and Peace), I'm going to picture Erica Hayes pointing her finger at me and saying, "The more like real life, the more boring the book." And at least, for me, the writing experience will be absent Ugly Inner Critic.

Anyone else utilize weird and unexpected experiences from their past in their present writings?

Disclaimer: This blog piece isn't a disclaimer on my writing, or an attempt at self-righteousness. ;)


Edie Ramer said...

I tell people when they say something that makes me laugh that I'm going to use that in a book. And I often do!

I have used experiences from my past in my WIP, but of course they change as my characters go through the experience. Like breast cancer, child birth, sex scenes...

Kath Calarco said...

Edie, whenever someone says something that strikes me, I fumble for a pen and scrap of paper because I KNOW I won't remember it. The problem with aging, I suppose, is forgetfulness. After I jot things down, I misplace the note. :)

Robin said...

Another nicely said post, Kath! I wish I could articulate things the way you do. I really do. I think it's probably impossible not have a hint of real in our writings, but I agree, this is FICTION and it's much more fun to read/write about things that aren't an everyday thing.

Kath Calarco said...

Binks, why else would you call me "Savilicious?" (And I spell it differently every time, lol.)

I'm all for reality, but I also like spicing it up with stuff that seems unreal but possible. You know what I mean? Whenever I've gotten feedback like "Never would happen," I always say, "Anything's possible." Unique sells, and not Sarah Palin. ;-)

Marcia Colette said...

I think some people miss the point of fiction. It's make believe. That means if you want a sexy character named Jethro "Skillet" Widebottom, then you're allowed to have it. You can do whatever you want because it's your book. Period. And in my mind, a name like that will definately resonnate with me for a long time. And I could be wrong, but isn't that the point? For a story to stick with its readers? If the name does, then you bet the rest will follow.

Whether it's a name, actions of the character, or what they say, I think anything is possible. Unless someone can prove to me why not, then I'm going with what makes sense to me.

Oh, and I always use pieces of my past in my stories. I think they make great fodder. :-)

Double oh, love the disclaimer. LOL!

Kath Calarco said...

Marcia, I'm hoping you'll name one of your characters Skillet. That paints such a great mental picture. But I totally agree and get your point about "memorable." I read a lit.fic. this past Spring, and the main character's last name was McCool. And it was befitting. Not only do I remember the name, but everything about the guy, as well as the story.

So maybe that's partially the key to memorable: names.

lainey bancroft said...

Hmm. Kinda on the fence with this one. Pretty sure it was Tom Clancy who said 'the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense'...or something like that.

I agree that fiction should be 'larger than life' and too much reality would bite. =)
But on the flip side, if the 'unreality' isn't built solidly enough, it just reads as far-fetched--too out there to connect with.

I've actually had a critique where someone was very focused on 'a guy wouldn't say that'. I scratched my head a bit and decided my guy would say that, I just hadn't established him well enough yet to make it believable for a reader to 'hear' it. If that makes any sense???

Kath Calarco said...

Lainey, I agree with some of your points. My concerns are with the things that I've written about, which were rooted in reality I'd experienced, only to have someone generalize by saying "Nope, would never happen," or something along those lines. Also, I like to leave the door open for possibilities. Sometimes fiction becomes reality.

Caryn Caldwell said...

Excellent point! I do read to escape. If I want to read about real life I'll read nonfiction or a newspaper or blogs. If I want to escape, I go for fiction.

Kath Calarco said...

Caryn! So good to see you.

I agree with your reality outlets, although some blogs are unreal at times. ;)