I’ve heard experts advise beginning writers: #Write what’s real. But what does this sentence mean?
Literary answer: The dictionary (Merriam Webster) defines realism as a style of art or literature that shows or describes people and things as they are in real life. Madame Bovary is often considered one of the first good examples of modern realism because Emma, the lead character, was deluded by romanticism and forced to face reality.
That’s interesting, but doesn’t really help a writer, at least not me, to understand: Write what’s real.
Philosophical answer: Philosophers note although humans learn about the world through their five senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste, they process this sensory information using facts and theories about the how the world function. Thus, a person's perception of the real world may be changed when they learn new facts and theories.
This definition is more nuanced. It allows a writer to realistically present the same scene in two very different ways, simply by changing the narrator (i.e. changing the #point of view).
Personal answer: A writer of any type of fiction—adventure, fantasy, or mystery—has to create characters who respond logically to their world and to their own internal compass (which could be in conflict with the rest of the world). Thus to me: "Write what’s real" means a writer lets his/her characters express honest emotions (anger disappointment, love) in response to their world, which has been realistically described through the five senses.
Okay, I’ve created a straw man. Now it’s your turn to explain: Write what’s real.
Why did I start this philosophical discussion? I’m finishing a collection of short stories called The Good Old Days? Although many people report their childhoods in the 1940-1960s in rosy terms, others children faced tough times with difficult (sometimes abusive) parents and teachers. Both perceptions are real. It all depends on the point of view.
The Good Old Days? will be available (Kindle and paperback) from Amazon in October.
I hope I wrote what was real in my mysteries and thrillers. Why don't you check them out and see.
In I Saw You in Beirut, a woman’s past provides clues for the extraction of a nuclear scientist from Iran. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1610092201
• In Malignancy, a woman scientist tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord and accepts a risky assignment in Cuba.
• In Ignore the Pain, an epidemiologist learns too much about the coca trade and too little about a sexy new colleague while on a public health assignment in Bolivia. http://amzn.com/1610091310