Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lit Reality

Sorry to be so late today! Had to take my herd of children to the doctor's office to get shots and purple cupcake band-aids.

That's one of those things that doesn't really happen in books, isn't it? Literary characters rarely pee, and if they need to, it's always at the most inconvenient times. They never just see the bathroom at the mall and realize, "Oh, I have to go." They also don't wash their faces very often, and they usually only wake up once--inevitably right at the beginning of the first chapter. People in books don't seem to need to do much yard work and their carpets seem to miraculously clean themselves. Frankly, I'm thinking I might like to be a literary character, because other than the potty thing, it sounds like a pretty good deal.

It's funny, because I know a lot of writers who shoot for realism in their books, but is that really an accurate term? Because in most cases, reality is what we're trying to escape from when we pick up a book. I'm not so interested in the adventures of a soccer mom, because I live them. Although if it's a demon fighting soccer mom, then we're on, bay-bee. Totally.

Plus, the so-called "reality" in books isn't really all that real. I think it's more "realistic" than anything else--you're picking and choosing bits of a life that are interesting and leaving the rest out. Yes, your hero probably makes a pit stop after getting into that brawl with the school bully, and then when he gets home, he finds out that his mom bought the wrong brand of underwear, and it's the kind that gives him red marks around his waist, and why can't she remember that, darn it? And then maybe they argue about that a little before he goes upstairs and finds the bully waiting for him in his room.

Most books skip over the underwear and peeing bits in an effort to tell a good story, as well as the driving-places-in-the-car and the getting-vaccinations and the grocery-shopping-excursion stuff. It's all in the quest for a good story, and I don't have a problem with that. But sometimes I see new writers get confused, because they're being told that their scenes need to feel real. I totally agree, but I think that you still need to pick and choose those bits that move your story along and make THOSE as real as possible.

What do you think? Am I making any sense at all here?


Aurora Smith said...

the beauty of an author is that your reality is what counts.

If stephanie Myer had worried about reality then there would have been talk about periods and Edmund freaking out once a month at Bella....or how someone dead like Eddie can get it up to make a baby when he doesnt have a blood flow.

Her reality is, that he could. And its a great story.


Aurora Smith said...

crap, Edmund is my character and Im writting his name so much that I accidently just said it instead of Edward. ooops.

I meant Edward.

Jennie Bennett said...

You are so not off your rocker, but how exciting is going pee, really? Not exciting unless it's in the middle of the most awkward date in history, right? We all want to live a little and the mundane things don't get us there.

Anonymous said...

LOL Sometimes I think about that, how characters never go to the bathroom or anything like that. But most of the time, I just enjoy the book.

I do think you're making sense, good post!

Oh, and "Read my books", your comment cracked me up. LOL So true!

LinWash said...

Yes, you make perfect sense (and are hilarious). I read a medieval-ish fantasy where the heroine, who was on the run from the villain, kept thinking about her monthly blood flow. While that's realistic, I kept getting pulled out of the story whenever she mentioned it. But for some reason, that aspect doesn't bother me in contemporary realistic fiction.

Marsha Sigman said...

Sometimes when I have to pee it's pretty exciting to me...but I don't think anyone else wants to read about it. I think you make perfect sense, Carrie!

Carrie Harris said...

Read my books: I wondered those things. I admit it. :)

Jen: That's exactly what I mean! So glad you agree!

Taylor Lynn: Yes, that kind of thing can get really boring to read about, can't it? I remember reading a book in which the main character spent three paragraphs brushing her hair. UGH. NO.

LinWash: That would definitely pull me out of a story too! Funny that it doesn't seem as striking to you in contemporary fiction! Anybody else like that?

Marsha: You cracked me up. :)

Jeigh said...

My mom and I used to laugh because in the Nancy Drew books, she takes showers ALL the time. I remember one book in particular, she showered when she got up, then she went into the woods searching for clues right after that, so when she got back (from walking, no dirt-rolling involved, mind you) she took another shower, then went to lunch. During lunch, she accidentally got pushed in the swimming pool so she took another shower. And then another before bed. Her skin must have been so dry.

Anonymous said...

I think it mostly depends on how it's written. If it's not too much unecessary detail and fits in with the story, making it more down to earth, then by all means go for it! :)

I don't think I've ever read the book with three paragraphs about brushing hair, so I can't pass judgement... but I do see how something like that could be tedious. On the other hand, if I include brushing hair, it's usually, "I brushed my hair and-". Over in four words, LOL! ;)

Claire Dawn said...

I'm in favour of a little dose of the real reality once in a while. It's nice for a character to pee once a book :)