Catch-22: A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.
The Catch-22 of being a fiction writer is creating a fiction story that is believable enough that readers can imagine it being true.
Reality vs. Fantasy. Is it possible to make it too realistic?
Think War of the Worlds.
The first time I ran into the challenge of someone reading my fiction and deciding what I’d written really happened, was in first grade. I submitted a short story about a girl finding a wounded deer and nursing it back to health before rereleasing it to the wild for a fiction writing contest.
One of the judges knew my father was a hunter and that we spent time up north Michigan. She was so convinced the story was true, she was about to disqualify me for not submitting a work of fiction!
I managed to convince her – with the help of my father – that the story was pure fiction.
That story went on to take first in the contest.
We celebrated at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor.
There have been a number of times since then that people have read my fiction and believed I was writing from real life.
It got downright ugly a couple of times, so I stopped allowing family members or coworkers to read unpublished manuscripts.
Dangerous Territory. I’m not the only fiction writer to run into this.
When working with Writer’s Digest, my mentor told me her mother-in-law was convinced she was having an affair because of one of her novels.
It’s also not limited to writers.
Mike Farrell spoke of getting letters from fans asking the fictional character he played on M*A*S*H – Dr. B.J. Hunnicutt – for medical advice.
Write What You Know. This is one of the fundamentals of fiction writing and it definitely contributes to the issue.
It isn’t that you have to, it’s just that it’s a lot easier and less time consuming than writing something you know nothing about, that would require lots of time spent on research in order to make it sound realistic,aka believable.
I have the additional challenge of writing not just to entertain but to educate. This necessitates throwing in a bit of truth.
Like I said, Catch-22.
There are a number of specific pitfalls when dealing with Fantasy vs. Reality.
PEOPLE: Since I write character driven stories, creating believable characters is particularly important to me.
It’s also important to me as a reader.
It helps that I find people fascinating. I enjoy watching them, talking to them, learning from them.
Including what not to do.
This has provided me with a rich pool from which to draw when giving characters personality quirks or behaviors. I also draw directly from some personal experiences.
PLACES: I’m fortunate in that I’ve lived in several different regions of the United States and have traveled internationally for work and pleasure. I know how regional factors influence behavior and drive people to do certain things in a certain way.
EVENTS: My life experiences, including all the adversity, have given me unique perspectives I can give to the characters in my stories.
Not to mention, drawing from paranormal experiences which have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I can take readers through some of those same experiences by having the characters go through them in the stories.
All this and more goes into my creative process.
Fantasy or. Reality? If I’ve done my job well, you’ll not know the answer.