Can you imagine if your imagination was used against you? I have written a large number of murder stories, I would be in a lot of trouble.
Recently I read, a story Amanda Knox published in college was used as a sign of her criminal mind in her murder trial. The story was about date rape.
What if this happened to all writers?
The truth is luckily few of us with have our stories used as evidence in a murder trial. However, to be successful there needs to be elements of truth behind what we write, to make it authentic. Even if you are a fantasy writer, this matters. You need to write authentic characters, that resonate with your readers.
Famous writers who achieve this.
Sweeney Todd is a story that has been told throughout ages. There are several different interpretations of folklore. Many writers have taken the story and interpreted it in their way. It was generally thought that a character called Sweeney Todd was a resident of London in the 1850s. With historical research, you can find no direct mention of the exact characters. It has been generally accepted that Todd never actually existed. Like Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, he is an amalgam of different sources, a composite of obscure horror tales, known murderers, folklore and the very human fear of cannibalism.
Michael Crichton is another author that has successfully played the is it true or not game. He wrote several books on nanotechnology and genetic manipulations. The science behind Jurassic Park is sound, however very unlikely. Well, at least I hope so. His novel Prey is about an experiment releasing a cloud of nanotechnology that attacks humans. As you read the book the fear comes from the fact, you are unsure whether this could happen in society today. The answer is simply we have the technology to produce this phenomenon.
Margaret Atwood’s, A Handmaids Tale is considered to be a work of fiction. Many will argue that a society similar to Gilead will never appear in the modern world. Then you read an interview from her where she states nothing contained in the book, is a work of fiction. She wrote the treatment of women from real-life situations. She used various countries and societies, when assembled they made Gilead.
John Carr is my latest favourite writer. The two books I have read of his are The One. This details a dating site that genetically matches people to their perfect partner. You answer questions, send off your DNA and the computer will match you with your perfect genetic partner. We already have websites that psychologically profile you to your ideal partner. How long will it be before DNA is used? His second book The Passenger is about self-drive cars that take over the driving completely. It is widely thought that self-driving will be the next technology added to new cars.
Classic writers such as George Orwell and Huxley wrote dystopian novels, that are daily becoming reality.
How to achieve this in your writing.
There are several ways to achieve this in your writing, regardless of the genre you write. Characters should be realistic. Characters should react as the reader would in their own life. For example, if you were writing about a knight’s family being attacked by a dragon. How would he react? Well, he would react exactly as you and I would if your family was being attached. The feelings and reactions would be the same. Putting this realism into your story, helps it relate to the reader.
Scenes do not have to be in an actual place. The countries, cities could all be fictional. The structure through of a town would be the same as we have. If you’re writing a fantasy novel can history help you, look at how settlements were set up. A fictional world, but based on structures and systems we are familiar with.
Dialogue, no matter the setting should be realistic. When you speak to a person, how many times do you use their name? In your dialogue this should also be evident, don’t overuse the characters name. I read a book once that I couldn’t finish, they had used the characters name every sentence. The story felt unnatural and didn’t flow.
If you are using actual places as a backdrop for your novel, then ensure they are accurate. Last year I read a book where the detective’s in the novel went to arrest someone from Folkestone harbour. Folkestone doesn’t have a port anymore and no longer runs trips to France, it was completely inaccurate. I know this because I live twenty minutes from Folkestone. This tiny inconsequential detail put me off the whole book. I couldn’t help thinking what other mistakes were in there that I didn’t recognise.
Throughout you need to play the truth, fiction game. Keep the reader wondering could this happen or not. This realism in any story keeps a reader engaged. Most readers want to imagine themselves in the story. They want to relate to the characters and invest in their journey. You can only do this by getting as close to the truth as possible.
Every book will have at least five different interpretations of it, as readers change. A good book will keep all readers wondering, wow could this happen? Is this the truth or not? Could this happen to me?
No matter what genre you write, realism is a must. As a writer, play the is it true or not game with your readers and keep them engaged from beginning to end.