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featured discussions > Fiction and Reality--opposites, or...?

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message 1: by Juliet (new)

Juliet Waldron (jwobscure) | 23 comments It has been said that "The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense." At first blush, I thought this was an obvious statement. As a writer of books sometimes called "semi-biographical historicals," I've always placed emphasis on using facts, but as I consider recent bestsellers, such as "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," I'm not so sure this is priority for every writer.

Do you need a nice package tied with a knot when you read, or can a story be as chaotic and open-ended as life if the characterization is compelling? What works for you?


message 2: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Taylor (nicholastaylor) | 1 comments I think that's a good question and I think it's a balance. Sometimes a book can be to chaotic with to much of the story being character driven but I've read a lot of books where everything made sense and I wanted to fall asleep. Not sure if that adds to the conversation or not.

Nick


message 3: by Pat (new)

Pat Bertram (patbertram) | 43 comments Mod
I don't like everything tied up into a nice neat package, but I like everything to make sense in that everything has to be motivated, even if the story is completely impossible. It's the motivations of the characters (why they do what they do) and the internal logic (consistency, cause and effect) of a make-believe world that make us draw us in and make the unbelievable believable.

In real life, there often are no motivations, no consistency, no cause and effect. Things just happen. But if things happened in a story for no reason, there would be no reason for the story, no matter how compelling a character.


message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisalickel) | 8 comments I have on Star Wars while I treadmill. Sometimes I Kindle, but this week I'm exploring the characters in film. Why did this work have such an impact on people, enough to create a cult religion? Readers have to be identify with characters and their motivations, no matter how many heads or what shape they are. If a character makes a choice I have to be able to cheer for them or groan for them, but if I go "huh?" That is so stupid, then you've lost me as a fan. As a mom, I wouldn't let my kid drive a pod-racer, but I have more choices than Annakin's mother had. And, whew, Annakin won the race again.


message 5: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (colleenct1) | 5 comments It really depends on what is going on in my life. If my life has chaos then I want a book that helps me relax. The oppoiste is also true when life becomes boring I need the chaos of a good story to keep my mind busy.


message 6: by Betty (last edited Feb 17, 2011 08:55PM) (new)

Betty (nightreader) | 29 comments As a reader, I like to read many different genres, so the answer can sometimes vary. Generally speaking, I enjoy chaos in my cozies, but want them to tie up most if not all strings. I love Donna Andrews because her books are always chaotic and that is the charm of the series. It's nice to know that I'm not living my chaotic life alone. ;-) Putting my mind to this thought, it seems that I enjoy the unexpected, chaotic and quixotic surprises in most genres, but they don't have to tie up all the threads, especially if I really enjoyed the book, I like to think there is more to come. Even if a series does not come out of it, and often it doesn't, it gives me a chance to think about what those ends might have led to. Let's face it. would you really want your own life tied up in neat little packages? or would you find that boring after awhile? Of course it would depend on what issues the reader may be dealing with at any given time. Sometimes you need the comfort of a defined ending. I find that I often need a nice light read after some "heavier" reading. For one thing, it gives me a break, and for another, it clearly sends my mind in a different direction. Sometimes I need a break from lighter reading for something more serious non-fiction, or a thriller, war stories, history. When life gets too chaotic, then I sometimes go for self-help. I do think everybody needs an AHA! moment (and if I'm reading a mystery, I like to be wrong sometimes when I say AHA!


message 7: by Pat (new)

Pat Bertram (patbertram) | 43 comments Mod
TEA, in life, people often do things just because they feel like it. In a book, characters have to have a reason for doing what they do, otherwise it seems too much like author intervention. Take something like becoming an insomniac -- in real life, sometimes we lose the ability to sleep for no reason, but in fiction, there has to be a cause. Maybe she's worrying about something. Maybe it turns out she's sick. Maybe she lost her job. If there is no reason for the insomnia, and the insomnia plays a part in the story, readers won't accept that part. If the insomnia doesn't have a reason and doesn't have a part, it becomes an unnecessay complication. In real life, there are innumerable unnecessary complications for us to deal with. In novels, everything has to be there for a reason.


message 8: by Karen (new)

Karen (karenvwrites) | 44 comments I agree with Pat characters need a reason for their actions. If they don't where is the story going? Like method acting--what's the motivation. Even in a fantasy novel there has to be a motive for what they do.


message 9: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 51 comments I've only just started reading Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so maybe I should wait to join this discussion :)

I do think fiction's meant to make sense. It frustrates me when I'm reading and can't work out where the author's going; or when I think I've worked it out and the story goes off in another direction. I recently read The Unnamed and felt like I had that problem, as if each part had a different aim in mind (though I actually enjoyed each part, so it sort of worked for me).


message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty (nightreader) | 29 comments What bothers me is when switches in time (you are in one period of time and suddenly you are back a few years, or maybe even centuries), and there is nothing to enlighten you to the fact. No break other than a regular paragraph break, or someone is conversing in one time period and suddenly it's someone else. I'm making about as much sense as some of the stories I'm talking about. To be honest, it doesn't happen to that extreme very often, but I hate having to backtrack to figure out when things changed.


message 11: by Angela (new)

Angela | 23 comments I don't mind open-ended or nicely tied together endings, but I have noticed when I am submitting my books for publication, the editors are always requesting I rewrite the ending to make it more "realistic," meaning chaotic and open-ended.

I write chick-lit, primarily, with an I Love Lucy kind of humor and find the nicely tied ending desirable. However, I have had to rewrite my books to make them more marketable by ending them with some questions unanswered.


message 12: by Angela (new)

Angela | 23 comments Nicholas wrote: "I think that's a good question and I think it's a balance. Sometimes a book can be to chaotic with to much of the story being character driven but I've read a lot of books where everything made sen..."


That's a tough balance, but that's probably every writer's ideal goal.


message 13: by Magpie67 (new)

Magpie67 | 6 comments I like a little of both I guess.... I tend to like my stories more if the character's are flawed but I don't need total dysfunction. And, I don't need a neatly tied knot at the end of certain genres.

I prefer mysteries though and love to create the whiteboard in my mind as I am solving them with the clues given by the author. I become a part of the story and crime is usually chaos until the pieces of the puzzle are complete. I do love the unexpected twists of things I didn't see coming as well.....

If we are discussing the "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo"..... I have yet to get past the financial mess which I have heard then the real story begins and gets better.... I don't know, I will have to force myself back to this book. I am not usually a fan of best sellers but was pleasantly surprised with

The Thirteenth Tale

I'm also a fan of Donna Andrews!

I also enjoy fiction mixed with reality such as historical moments or real places and or events. It makes a nice balance and intrigues my interest in the fictional characters.


message 14: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 51 comments Magpie67 wrote: "I like a little of both I guess.... I tend to like my stories more if the character's are flawed but I don't need total dysfunction. And, I don't need a neatly tied knot at the end of certain gen..."

The Thirteenth Tale was really good--perhaps an example of successful switching.


message 15: by Alex (new)

Alex | 11 comments With some things I write, I make a conscious effort to represent reality as I know it (that's the trick), and yet I'm aware it's still not reality. But with these efforts I feel obligated to respect cause-and-effect, common-sense notions of time, and the conventional relationship among author, narrator and characters. To me, that's realistic fiction, but it's no more reality than a representative painting is the same as what it represents. But playing with the process is interesting. You attend the theater. The actors are playing fictional characters, but one of the actors interacts with an illusion, someone she sees but the other actors don't. But the illusion is played by a real actor. Is the illusion less real than the other actors because he is a fiction of one of the primary characters?


message 16: by Magpie67 (new)

Magpie67 | 6 comments Obviously the reality in the book is the author's license to create. One I like to follow and join in on the pages as the reader. :0)


message 17: by Alex (new)

Alex | 11 comments James Bond had a license to kill but he still had to do the killin'. Much of the above discussion focuses on whether fiction should reflect or abandon reality to be believable (more importantly, to draw readers?). I don't believe that in life there are frequently "no motivations, no consistency, no cause and effect,"--but realistic fiction puts a premium on them. The reality in realistic fiction is not just the author's to create. In romance, gothic, thrillers, it's unreality that the author has the license to create.


message 18: by Deb (new)

Deb Hockenberry (kidztales) | 21 comments Hi,
I like the books either way. A little chaos is great as long as everything falls into place & make sense at the end like a Dan Brown or Steven King book does. Sometimes, I just like a nice easy read with a tied up, satsfying ending.


message 19: by Brett (new)

Brett (battlinjack) | 30 comments I think it's a balance the author has to find for a successful story. I don't care for everything in a story to be neat and tidy, but there has to be a bit or it just becomes nonsense.
There are some successful writers who write very chaotic stories, IMO, and are fairly good at it. Bit it's usually not my cup of tea.
Again it comes to personal choice. A book I feel is too chaotic may seem too rigid to another reader.

There is this though and it's very important to me concerning story lines.
I like to be challenged somewhat. I like to use my imagination to fill in any gaps intentional or not. Although I primarily read for entertainment and escapism, I feel I have to learn something no matter how small or the story is a failure.

Does that make sense?

There are books out there that I consider to be eye candy. they are easy and quick to read and require little, if any, thought to understand.

I like to read one or two of those type in between my usual fare. They help cleanse my mental palate.

Some hard science fiction (and other genres of course) can be very intense and deep. so much so that you come out at the end with your mind full and spinning with all the possibilities and info the story gave you.

Then I will read something like an old Doc Savage novel or Louis Lamour or one of those mysteries that are called 'cozies'.

For example, 'The Wounded Guardian" by Duncan Lay is a great Fantasy novel. There is a lot to it you are forced to think along with the story. At 626 pages and being book one of a series, you get swamped with information. It's a great book!
But my little ole brain needed a little break after wards so I read 'What's A Girl Gotta Do?' by Sparkle Hayter. An award winning 1st novel that is absolutely hilarious and as different from 'The Wounded Guardian' as possible.

So back to the original question (now you see how I tend to ramble all over the place?), my answer is, It depends. Depends on what I've been reading and how close to bursting my mind feels.

Well, you're all in luck, my latest rescue, Kaeli, just crawled up into my lap demanding attention. So off I go.


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