Saturday, November 13, 2010


When you write reality-based fiction, you walk more than one tightrope. One of the things always in the back of my mind as I work on my WIP is the idea of perception of reality. I base my story in reality, and adjust it for fiction. Thing is, everybody has their own perception of reality. Some readers are bound to see my adjusting for fiction as error. It’s easy to think you have a full understanding of some part of society or life. That’s how clich├ęs and stereotypes are perpetuated. People hear about them and start to assume that’s how things really are.

Gangs are easy to make assumptions about. There are certain things, as I understand it, that a lot of gangbangers do and say. But it’s also true that news stories about them don’t generally talk about what really goes on their heads. Some of them do regret the violence.

My story is still at an early stage, of course. I’m going to revamp the early chapters to increase tension and draw readers in. But I have to think about how I do it. Once this thing gets published, how many readers might just think “That’s not how it really is. How can I believe the rest of the story if this part is wrong?”

I read something about writing that I stupidly cannot find who wrote it or where. It said something like, reality-based fiction is supposed to represent reality, not be reality. When you think about it, that makes perfect sense. You can’t drop reality wholesale into written fiction and expect it to be clear. There’s too many differences and limitations in written fiction for that to work. Anyway, who wants to read something they could get from a newspaper or online or from friends?

Reality-based fiction gives readers familiar things to hold on to and feel comfortable with. Then when it presents the fiction part, readers ought to be ready to believe it, if it’s done well. They’ll start to think, “Oh I can totally see that really happening” or maybe “That could only happen in fiction. But it’s great to speculate about it.”

What I’m trying to accomplish is shining a light on some things a lot of people prefer not to think about, but should, wrapped in an interesting tale. There’s enough fact--and human nature--in it for readers to recognize the issues I talk about.

It’s a privilege to be part of a group of people who have long been not just the keepers of collective memory, but a group that urges us to look hard at how we live: the storytellers. Those of you who are also storytellers, smile. Not everybody can do this. We need to do it as well as we can.


  1. "Whatever you are, be a good one." ~ Abraham Lincoln

  2. I like that, Mysti. I've always thought Lincoln's writings are still very relevant to a whole bunch of current situations.