Over the past decade or so, the fashion has been for reality television and fantasy fiction. There’s so much reality on television that readers have clearly decided to give it a wide berth in their fiction. They’ll consume reality in book from all right, but mostly, it’s non fiction.
But in recent times, the winds of change are beginning to stir. The robust realistic novel, telling a straight story in real time, is making a slow comeback. You’ve got books like The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Capital by John Lanchester and Canada by Richard Ford. These books don’t get anything like the press enjoyed by the fantasy franchises, the latest being Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have to admit I’m cheering at this. These are the kinds of books I love to read. And they’re the kind of books I aim to write. So I’m going to fly the flag for reality fiction – and blow the myths that surround it.
#1 Reality is Boring
In the hands of a really great writer, the world you live in becomes a world of wonder. It’s the job of a writer to find the extraordinary within the ordinary and help you see it too. Besides, the reality they depict is often a lot more interesting and rich with possibilities than the one we actually live in.
#2 Reality is Depressing
Good writing is never depressing. It may deal with a sad theme, but when a book is well written, you’ll leave it feeling uplifted. Good reality fiction holds a mirror up to society, helping you to gain insights into the human condition.. You’ll finish the book comforted in the knowledge that whatever you experience in live, you are not alone.
#3 Reality Doesn’t Provide Enough Material
You could get material forever just by exploring the dynamics between people. Think about a family gathering; all the simmering tensions, the people pretending to get on, the secrets hidden. In reality fiction, you can really get under the skin of life.
#4 Reality Is Unoriginal
Telling a straight story is a lot harder than it looks. It’s easy to hide behind linguistic tricks. Engaging your audience and holding their attention is an increasingly rare talent, but it’s where reality writers excel.
#5 Reality Doesn’t Sell
All right, it doesn’t sell in the way fantasy fiction does, but you will still see a reality fiction book int he Top 10 every week. Trends rise and fall, but there’s always room for a straightforward story, well told.
Do you too enjoy the rigours of reality? Or do you prefer to escape into a fantasy world? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts.