Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Tries to be Real

Wow, Thursday just kinda snuck up on me this week. This week has been super crazy, and it’s not even over yet. Tomorrow is gonna be even more crazy.

I’m not here to complain about my hectic week (much). I’m here to talk about being real.

When I first started writing, I read somewhere that set my writing back by a lot. It wasn’t bad advice. It was actually good advice that I took too literally. The advice was to write realistically.

I read this, and the light bulb went off above my head. Suddenly even story that didn’t contain simple tasks like brushing our teeth and taking a shower were unrealistic. I knew I needed to remedy this by writing about every single thoughtless task I did on a daily basis (in my defense I was really young and didn’t know anything about writing other than you write. I was way in over my head). I wrote about everything:

Boring morning schedule either no point? Check!
Boring scenes about my MC stares into the fridge looking for something to drink for breakfast (because everyone cares about my internal conflict between OJ and milk which totally goes with my plot)? Check!
Boring scenes about my MC stressing for her gazillion tests/ projects due that had nothing to do with my plots (okay now I’m done talking about my school life)? Check!

I did this for a while for longer than I’d like to admit before I realized these all knowing, published writers knew what they were doing. Here I thought I was being revolutionary making my writing realistic when really I was making my writing as boring as mangoes (everyone knows grapefruits are the life of the party).

The key I learned (through MUCH trial and error) was make everything directly relate to my plots (yes this was a shocker for me too) while keeping it in the real world. People do NOT run from bad guys for hours without sleeping for the past week and be functional is not realistic (which is what I think the person who gave me the dive was referring to). Heck I’m not functional without at least 12 hours (which is just about never).

Realistic scenes also slow down your story which can be an advantage and a disadvantage.

Advantage: A story shouldn’t be action, action, action. Give your readers time to breathe between the drama. Realistic scenes can give the reader a quick breather between scenes.

Disadvantage: Don’t bog down intense scenes with unrealistic “real” details. Wow that made no sense. What I mean is if you are running for your life, you will not be taking a look at all the cute shop windows to see if there are any cute floral sundresses. Yes there are probably going to be cute things in the windows of stores, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop and look. You run for your life. Realism can SINK an intense moment.

Being real is important, but don’t go overboard like I used to.

There are a lot of exceptions to this (like in fantasy) where you kinda need to stay away from what’s real. The basic laws of life can be broken in writing, but realism makes the story more relatable for readers. It’s easier to relate to someone who faces the real challenges you and I face all the time. A connection between a character and reader can be formed from common real moments of truth in your stories.

Looking back the advice was helpful even if it didn’t help me right away. It taught me how to write plot focused scenes while keeping my foot planted in the real. I just really wish I had stopped and went “maybe I could be wrong.”

What advice have you received that you’ve learned from? Do you try to write realistically?