Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fictional Reality

How does one get an audience to buy off on what's being sold?  How can a writer get a reader to suspend disbelief just enough to lose himself or herself in the world we're trying to sell?  The answer is as simple as it is contradictory - make the unbelievable believable.

The best way to make fantastic tales seem more plausible is to create realistic characters.  No, I don't mean that there really are elves out there who want to take down the great dragon, or that a power mad space tyrant who wants to destroy the galaxy really exists.  Rather, I mean that the people we place in our stories have to seem real to the reader.  They have to be people we can relate to.

All great stories have heroes.  However, those heroes, in my opinion, need to be flawed.  They shouldn't be these holier-than-thou-never-make-a-mistake-or-have-doubts kind of guy.  Most can't relate to someone like that.  Every one of us has doubts and foibles.  Overcoming those failings is what makes us heroic.  We want to see people reach beyond their doubts and overcome great obstacles within themselves, because that's the ideal we truly strive for.  We want to imagine that we can be greater than we are, and those with nothing inside themselves to overcome seem too far out of reach for the average reader to sympathize with.

Our characters need to have real human trappings as well.  Give your protagonist a quirk of some kind, like always checking the mail slot or an affliction for porn(that he promises to give up each and every week).  Maybe the main character never dealt with the guilt of not spending enough time with his or her father before that person's death, and it's affecting how they deal with loved ones now.  Whatever it is, it should be something that lots of people have gone through.  When someone can see themselves in the role of the main character, dealing with the same things, that lets them truly become part of the story.

And isn't that a large part of what readers want from a story?  When you read Harry Potter, doesn't a small part of you imagine yourself trying to smash Voldemort's horcruxes?  Isn't part of the appeal of Twilight that a lot of women would like to be the vulnerable when she wants to be but strong when she needs to be Bella Swan?  It's that feeling of becoming the story that exemplifies most bestselling novels, and that's more of what we should be shooting for.

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