Realism in writing


Realism, what is that?  When we write stories, is it simply the accurate recording of circumstances and events, the faithful rendering of our characters’ personalities and ways of speaking?  Or is it more to do with accurately reflecting what happens in the world, and being a faithful channel for wonderful characters who are very keen to see the light of day, who are longing to have their say?

Currently, I suppose, I tend to the view that realism is what we want it to be.  If we are writing about unknown worlds in the future, places and galaxies that exist mostly in our heads, (Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’, for example) we can do what we like, though our internal structure has to be consistent enough to allow the plot to hang together.  Our portraits may be incomplete, fanciful, annoying, but that hardly matters if we decide it doesn’t.  We might intend to be annoying, whimsical…. So long as we do, and we can carry that off, fine.

I write about people, mainly.  I like to think of them as realistic, like anyone I might meet.  But of course, I love to think of them as somehow special too, so the gentlemen tend to be handsome, the women are usually very pretty…. I like realism, but not so much that I feel as if I’m eating cold porridge.  Make-believe has to allow for a mix of fantasy and realism.  So for me there has to be a happy ending – or at least, a satisfyingly ambivalent one; though some people would say that realistically, there ain’t no such thing…!

But there could be.  Where fantasy and realism meet, that is where, for me, every happy ending might be.  That hope is, I believe, the magic factor that keeps us coming back to stories of ‘real people’, who are just magical enough to lift us up, raise our spirits and swell our hearts with hope.

I do hope you agree.




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