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Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Like the Real World

As a fiction writer, I deal in complete lies all wrapped up in one nice, neat package called a book. I make up stories about imaginary people trying to solve imaginary problems in imaginary settings. The trick is that in all my stories, the lies have to "ring true." I can do this because most people who pick up a book voluntarily suspend their disbelief while reading the story. Readers are quite willing to give an author the benefit of the doubt--most of the time, but writers are always warned against using contrived plots, boring dialogue, and flat characters.

Still, there are plenty of very odd coincidences that happen in real life. Remember that kid in school who seemed to be headed for a detention center, but who is now a lawyer with a Mercedes and a trophy wife? If it happens in a book, the author has a lot of explaining to do--and it all has to sound "real."

Though dialogue in a story must seem real, the everyday dialogue we use is hardly as succinct or witty as that in a novel.

The characters in a novel must appear to be flesh and blood. They cannot be flat or cardboard characters--one dimensional. But how many genuinely boring people do you know? The world is populated with millions of them!

In short, a novel is nothing like the ordinary world we live in. It is far, far better. It makes a lot more sense even though it is one big lie.

The real world is often much stranger than fiction.

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