View Full Version : Realism Exceptions, Types, Degrees

Laer Carroll
05-28-2013, 12:45 PM
Realism is one of the many tools in our literary tool kit. It may not be useful in all stories. In an allegory or madcap comedy, for instance, it may even be harmful.

Realism for fiction writers is not the same as reality. If a story is 100% realistic it is documentary, not fiction. Realism is the SEEMING of reality, an imitation which convinces us for the length of the story that it is real.

A story may have several kinds of realism. These include realism in people, places, actions and events.

These may not all have the same degree of realism. The actions and events in a story may be laughably unrealistic. Yet the people in the story may be so totally convincing they stay with us for a lifetime. More real to us, perhaps, than distant relatives weve met only once. Or historic figures whom weve never met.

We can use realism in as many ways as our creativity can devise.

For example, my Shapechanger Tales books are alternate history. Many of the actions and events are fantastic, could never happen. Some of the characters are unrealistically heroic despite my attempts to make them seem realistic.

To offset these qualities Ive invested much effort in researching the settings in which they happen. Ive even spent weeks in some of the places to capture all their sensory and psychological nuances. I include maps in the books and occasionally photographs. Ive also included on my web site Google maps and Google Earth links so that interested readers can see interactive virtual representations of the actual places.

How do you use realism?

Cathy C
05-28-2013, 02:37 PM
I work hard to ask the questions readers would ask if they lived in my world. My Tales of the Sazi reality, for example, is set in the here and now and features shapeshifters who hide in plain sight. Given conspiracy theorists who would no doubt try to push "proof" of such shifting, how can they remain hidden?

Answer: Give the more powerful members of the group abilities that help hide the others: wolves will appear as stray dogs to humans, public parks can give off weird vibes that cause humans to shy away--without knowing why, and having most shifters work at pack businesses where taking off during the full moon, EVERY full moon, won't be questioned.

At the very least, don't shy away from the hard questions. Have the characters themselves ask, in the text. Answer with a shrug and "Dunno. Sometimes magic is weird like that." Oddly, this has disarmed more criticisms than anything else (according to reviewer comments) :)