Friday, April 12
Do We Expect Too Much Realism in Our Stories?
I've been noticing an interesting reaction to stories lately. The expectation to be realistic, even when the books are clearly not real. People complaining about something not being able to happen in real life in stories that in no way are trying to be real life.
I'm not talking about the basic plausibility every story needs, but a desire for realism that makes it difficult to suspend disbelief, and thus hurts the enjoyment of the story overall.
I first noticed it in a review of the YA dystopian novel, Divergent. (a great book by the way) The reviewer had issues with the general setup of the class factions of the novel's world. They said you'd never have this happen in real life.
My first reaction was that this faction breakdown was a metaphor for the cliques every teen experiences. It wasn't supposed to be real life. (though in later books in the series it turns out there is a legitimate reason for it, but I think my point is still valid) It's a fantasy novel posing a question: if life was like this, what would happen under these circumstances?
Part of the enjoyment of a book is explore human nature within the confines of a premise. It's like an experiment--pose that what if scenario and then test it. See how things shake out, what people do, how one moment interacts with the next.
If we expect everything to be real, is it hurting our ability to explore the what if?
Worse, is it hurting us as writers?
Is the pressure to be real holding us back from exploring ideas just because "it would never happen that way?"
I suppose it's possible that fantasy (in all its shapes and sizes) has gone more mainstream now, so readers who have never read it before are picking it up. If you've never been exposed to the what if type story, you might have issues with the format. But it does make me wonder why, with the growing popularity of fantasy, believability seems to be going down.
What do you guys think? Have you noticed this as well, or am I just crazy?