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Truth, Fiction & Reality

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 4:32 pm
by Rick
The cliché says that truth is stranger than fiction. Novels are supposed to pull the reader into another world for a few hours—an escape from the everyday to a fantastical place where nothing is mundane and everything is remarkable. The best fiction has long held the respect of the entertainment world as an art form to bring the most outlandish of ideas to readers in an accessible, authoritative and highly entertaining package (aliens from outer space declaring war on Earth, vampires living among us, dinosaurs coming to life, honest lawyers overcoming their peers). Today, however, it sometimes seems that the premises of many novels are being overshadowed by the general lunacy (and 24/7 mass availability) of The Real World—oops, not the reality show—but of Real Life. Perhaps it has become increasingly difficult for fiction to compete with reality.

Consider this randomly chosen smattering of today’s news headlines that took me less than five minutes to cull:

“Cocaine found in shuttle work area, NASA says” ... nce-space/

“Stolen Monet found in Poland after 10 years” ... ooks_more/

“Man Clinically Dead for 40 Minutes Out of Hospital”,2933,582927,00.html

“Woman 'Regrows' Face After Allergic Reaction Causes Skin to Fall Off”,2933,582911,00.html

‘Shark Rips Tourist Apart” ... rist_apart

That’s some serious reading material! And free reading material, at that. So after being fed a steady diet of this kind of stuff, 24/7, day in and day out, both in print and via video, available at home or on the go, potential readers are supposed to absorb a description of a piece of fiction—something that someone completely made up out of thin air and typed into their computer--and be “wowed” enough to fork over their cash and spend their free time reading it. Does this real-time reporting of as-they-happen, over-the-top events up the bar for novelists to grab and hold readers' attention? Granted, a novel goes into a lot more character depth and plot detail than does even the most detailed expose, but still, one has to wonder what the impact is of today’s hyper-available, sensationalist media on the average consumer’s desire for long-form fiction. What once might have been considered outrageous is now nothing out of the ordinary. Crazy is the new normal, if you will.

So how does a fiction writer make sense of all this? Ignore it? Write ever more astonishing plots? Present ultra-conservative, boringly comfortable worlds that stand out in contrast to the noise? Or just keep writing the things that interest us, hoping that if we find them fascinating, other people will too?

Re: Truth, Fiction & Reality

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 9:18 pm
by writingbug
Interesting take on the way the 24-hour news cycle is jading us to unique occurrences and making us feel disconnected from the real world. I'd hope the writer's job is to get us feeling connected again by making the story real for each reader. Of course that requires people to turn off the internet long enough to actually read in the first place...

Re: Truth, Fiction & Reality

Posted: January 14th, 2010, 11:13 pm
by Rick
Thanks, writing bug. I agree that it is a writer's job to make people feel connected, and that the depth of this connection has the potential to be greater than what can be found elsewhere. As far as getting off the 'net long enough to read--don't forget the video games and the high-def TV's!