by Charlee Vale
"That's not realistic."
Have you ever heard this said about a book? I have. Honestly, it's one of those things people say that drive me crazy, in all it's many variations. "That wouldn't happen." "People don't talk like that." "That's not the way things work."
The reason this makes me go a little batty is that the last time I checked, I didn't go into a novel looking for reality.
When I go into a novel I go looking for a story. I want it to engage me and sweep me up and make me believe in fantastic things and feelings; shock me with unspeakable horrors and make me shiver. No matter what genre you apply this to it is the same. Books aren't reality, so why they should be bound by the same set of rules?
But sometimes when I hear these things, I know they're not saying what they mean. They say 'that's not realistic,' and what they mean is 'this doesn't make sense.' And when something doesn't make sense, that's a problem.
Even though fiction isn't bound by the rules of reality, it's bound by it's own set of rules: the ones you create. In the realms of your writing you always must construct how things work--a structure for the audience to rely on. If you don't create a strong enough framework, or break the rules of the world you created, your audience will become confused and disconnected.
A perfect example of this is Shakespeare. Shakespeare's plays cannot be considered 'realistic' by today's standards; after all, the people wear funny clothes, say funny words, and do funny things. But do the they make sense? Yes. Each Shakespearean play has an internal logic and structure that allows us to understand, follow, and empathize with the characters. We don't care that it's not realistic.
If you make sure your world works, no one will notice it's not real.
Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, bookseller, agency intern, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, and on Twitter, and trying to make sense of her worlds on paper.