Category Archive: character growth

May 07 2013

Readers Hate Realism in Fiction

pagesOne thing I’ve learned after writing over a dozen stories is … readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how life really is. Yet, they want to feel like everything that happens in a story is true to life. A contradiction? Not necessarily.

Readers like to suspend disbelief in certain situations and genres like in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Paranormal fiction. I mean, we all know were-creatures and fairies don’t exist. But if the writer has done her job and created rules for her world, as long as her characters follow the rules, the readers have no issues.

It’s with things like characters, their motives, their desires, struggles and actual characteristics that need to feel … real.

 

Likable Characters, Redeemable Characteristics

Readers think they want realistic, but what they really want is happily ever afters, scorching hot men, talented and successful characters, nice guys or bad boys with redeemable qualities, and characters that do not possess any unfavorable qualities … in other words, people who don’t really exist.

It irks readers when you give them whinny, lying, foul-mouthed, bitchy, odd, arrogant, lazy, two-faced, characters because the point in reading, for many, is to escape those kinds of people and situations.

But if you want to truly be realistic, these are the types of people we live with, work with, associate with, and encounter every day, even when we look in the mirror. No wonder we don’t want to deal with them in Fiction Land.

True realistic characters in fiction, the characters we deal with on a day-to-day basis, can warrant the author unfavorable reviews, can cost the author potential readers, and result in low sales. Read reviews. Almost every reviewer mentions what they felt about the characters. It’s that big a deal.

I’ve read that a character should reflect the reader. I disagree. Readers want to be the character in a sense of relating to the character and their struggles and then experiencing that happy ending. Readers do not want the character to be a reflection of themselves and their unflattering traits. That’s too realistic for comfort in most cases. Those are the characters we don’t relate to, the ones we don’t like, the ones who are forgettable, etc.

 

Fairytales and Happily Ever Afters

Essentially, we like fairytales. The princess always gets the prince at the end. No main character dies or suffers too long or too much, not without finally getting what they were striving for throughout their entire journey. Bad people get what they deserve. Good people get what they deserve. By the end of the book, life is grand!

This is apparently what helps makes good fiction. It’s very formulaic, believe it or not. We authors are all telling the exact same story just with different characters, situations and delivery.

 

The Fiction Formula and what it says about Human Beings

Every genre has a set of rules that the writer must adhere to. In the Romance genre, some of the rules are:

  1. Happily ever after or happily for now. This is an absolute must! This is what readers expect out of the genre.
  2. A physically, mentally or emotionally attractive main character. Yes, they can have issues and physical flaws (have a limp, a scar, swear too much, etc.), but they have to possess a trait that makes them very attractive, unique or engaging as well.
  3. They have to have good intentions. No matter what, deep inside they are good people.

Readers aren’t interested in characters who wakes up to have it all, unless they lose it all and prove that they deserved it in the first place, or if they sacrifice it all for a greater good. Characters have to struggle, otherwise their tale is boring. They can’t just get everything they want, they have to work for it. They just can’t have anyone they want either, they have to work for that too. Everyone gets their just desserts by the end.

This is the rule of fiction.

Says a lot about how we feel about ourselves and others, right? Haven’t you noticed that we tend to be envious of those who seem to have it all and acquire it without much effort? We feel that way because we compare ourselves to them. We tend to despise people who seem not to work as hard, or suffer as much as we do, but seem to have more than us and are happier. We hate these types of characters too. That’s why a great character in fiction has to suffer like no other, inside and out before they can have their happy ending.

When the characters don’t suffer enough, you leave readers unsatisfied.

 

How Fiction Differs from Real Life

Well, in the real world:

  1. Good people often have crappy things happen to them.
  2. Bad people don’t always get punished.
  3. And most of the time, we never have all our wishes come true or …
  4. End up with the dangerously scorching hot hunk at the end of our suffering.
  5. Many times, there is no end to our sufferings.
  6. We don’t have perfect relationships. We don’t have funny, selfless and spunky friends, neighbors, relatives, pets, bosses, etc.
  7. We don’t have great jobs.
  8. We’re weak, fat, miserable, and insecure.
  9. Sometimes, life just sucks!

So it’s not that readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how life really is. It’s that, readers despise reality or anything that reminds them how “sucky” life really is.

Keep that in mind when creating fictional characters.

 

What did you think of this post? Speak your mind in the comments below.

Feb 14 2012

The Complicated Story Ending

The ending of your story should be just as engaging as the beginning hook. It should be emotionally satisfying, and tie up most if not all loose ends. If the book is part of a series, it still needs to stand on its own, and answer all major story questions.


Sound familiar?

These are the (unofficial) rules about story endings that all writers know or should know. We follow these rules to ensure a great ending to our story in the hopes that readers will stick around for the next book in the series, come back to read our next standalone title, or even pick up one of our backlisted ones.

Why Endings are Important.

The end of any book is important. The end is the last impression the reader has of our stories. It’s the part of the story that is the freshest in their mind and which they rate and judge the book as a whole. A great ending is hard to write but necessary to attempt.

Although I know what makes a great ending I still struggle to execute it at times. I obsess over it, trying to perfect it.

Makings of a Great Story Ending:

  • Twists and surprise endings: Surprising the reader with a revelation that was foreshadowed throughout the story. i.e. It was right under their noses the whole time.

  • Theme: Tying in the overall theme or message of the book into the ending to add extra significance.

  • Answer the major story question: Will they fall in love? Will they find the murderer? Will they ever learn to trust one another?

  • Character change and growth: The main characters must begin the story a certain person and by the end of the story the character is a changed man or woman. The events in the story, the obstacles, the triumphs and failures all mold the character into a different person by the end.

  • End at the end: Once the major story questions are answered and the character achieves the story goal then the story is over. Ending the story before questions are answered and characters change or long after can disappoint the reader.

Currently I attempt to rewrite the ending of my latest WIP and hope it all falls into place. Knowing how to write the perfect ending to your story doesn’t make it any less complicated, in my opinion. However, my motto is: If it’s too easy, you ain’t doing it right.