Saturday, August 28, 2010

Keeping It Real

"Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth."
~Pablo Picasso

Telling the truth through fiction is almost as hard as telling the truth through a fib. When someone lies, they do everything they can to make their story seem realistic. Fiction writers should have the same determination. We want our readers to almost wonder if our story was based on something that actually happened. Not so that they will believe a lie, but because the stories that are the most realistic are the ones that usually connect most with a reader. We don't want people to read our story and feel as if they're reading a made up fairytale. Writers must do everything they can to make their fiction honest.

But how is this possible, since fiction is... well, a made up story?
Here are a few tips I've come up with to help work some truth through your story:
  • Think about what stirs up your emotions. What makes you laugh? Cry? Angry? Use emotions to enrich your story. Everyone has feelings, so this is a great tool to use to connect with your reader and have them almost convinced that this story really did happen. Keep in mind, though, that everyone experiences emotions differently. What I mean is, some people may be more sensitive than others, have different types of humor, etc. Whatever way that you weave in emotions through your story, remember to keep it real and relatable.
  • Create characters based off real people, not imaginary people. If you ever had an "imaginary friend" when your were a kid, you probably made her perfect. She was good at everything, and she liked everything you liked. Or if you're a guy, then your imaginary friend probably had super powers that no other human had. The exaggerated "powers" may work if you're writing fantasy - but when writing fiction, such as Christian fiction, your characters should have the same qualities as a real person. One way to make your characters seem "true" is by basing them on of people you know. Real people have flaws. Real people have attributes. If you use some of the same qualities as another person you may know, and maybe add some of your own... I'm sure your character will be real to the reader also, instead of just an imaginary character in a book.
  • Make sure that your dialogue isn't "cheesy", and that it moves the story forward. It's great to base the conversations in your fiction on of the conversations you have with people in real life, but some things that aren't necessary to tell the story should be left out. Also, keep in mind when writing your dialogue that each of your characters should talk in different ways based on their personalities. The people in your own life don't all talk the same way and say the same stuff, do they? If your dialogue doesn't seem like a real conversation with real people, then the story itself won't seem real.
  • Base your plot on real situations. This is the biggest way to relate to your reader, because then they know that they are not alone. That's the power of fiction. But if the situations in your story seem unlikely to happen to an ordinary person - then most likely, others will find it difficult to connect with it, and therefore, your fiction won't seem true. Use the power of fiction by creating a plot that is intriguing but honest in a way that can relate to your readers. Use real problems, real life situations, and realistic events to create your plot.

Fiction can be a great tool to minister to others, only if it's honest. If you're writing Christian fiction, then remember that it can easily turn "cheesy". Don't try to weave your message into the events in your story, weave your story into a message. In other words, don't write in a way that is unrealistic just so you can shove a certain message into your reader's brain. That's when Christian fiction becomes cheesy. Write in a way that is honest. If you keep it real, then the story becomes relatable.

"The letters I receive most of all from readers say this: 'Thank you for writing such real characters.' The reason they're real? The reason your work will be real? Because we must write in a way that is honest."
~ Karen Kingsbury

How are some ways you "keep it real" while you write?


  1. A way I make sure my dialogue is believable is reading it out loud. That helps me. :) Great post!


  2. I agree with Katie - dialogue can be the key to imbuing your writing with a sense of reality. Listen to conversations, listen to arguments even - it sounds weird but a lot of dialogue I crafted in my novel was born out of intense scrutiny of all sorts of interactions between people.

  3. You have a lot of great points here, and I enjoyed reading it. I wish you well with your future. How wonderful that you're writing so young, I love it!

  4. Thank you for your nice comment! =) I'm glad that you enjoyed this post.

    God bless!


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