Fiction Verses Reality

As I was editing one of my future posts, which deals with part of a fictional story, I realized that for a story to work that it must mirror reality. And what I’m referring to here is what our experience tells us about how it all works – cause and effect, if – then, and the such. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Stranger than fiction”; meaning that something in real life was beyond the imagination of the many writers out there and whatever the incident one would never have expected it to happen in real life, in the real world.

As I thought about this I realized, (not that I haven’t talked about this before in past posts) that whatever the fictional world the writer creates, it is the actors or characters who must be consistent in what and who they are. The worlds may be of fantasy, of a future utopia, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, dystopian, or so many other fictional creations that don’t include the physical or real world as we know it. Again these worlds are simply the places in time and have a physical reality that the fictional people live out their fictional lives. And while it may be fantastical to us, for the ones living in these worlds it is the normal day-to-day stuff. And if we strip away the fancy dressing, the fictional worlds and societies, what do we find but ordinary people living their lives and trying to survive. Of course most of the boring stuff has been stripped away with only the situation that has been brought forth presenting us with the conflict that drives the story.

The people – especially the protagonists and antagonists must mirror reality. And here I mean they must mirror us, the ones who live in this physical realm. They must reflect, act, and react like living breathing human beings whether their form is like us or completely strange. I think one of the most difficult parts of being a writer of fiction is when one creates creatures that have never existed, be it in horror, science fiction, fantasy, or any of the many other genres where we have this freedom, is to make them appear real thinking beings, reacting as they should within the limits of their form. From our imaginations we must create a history, the conditions that drive these fictional cultures to become advanced enough to rise above the animals, build societies, and then act and interact with us, as readers, on a level where we can empathize with them and what we are reading. And all of it must be seamless and natural revealing this history and culture through the actions and reactions of these fictional creatures, worlds, and environments.

Yet, even here when this is done, deep down, and while the writer keeps it consistent within this world of aliens, we can still see us. All of us are prisoners of our culture. Unless you have spent time in another, then it is easy to overlook the fact that others, because of their culture, look at a situation or the world differently. In fact the language you speak has determined the way you even think. When one learns a foreign language it forces one to begin to think in that language. And I’ve been told that once you no longer have to translate that foreign language into your own, at that moment, you have made it your own. And it has been said the more languages you can speak the smarter you become. And it seems to be so. Still it could be because the ones who have done this have a higher intelligence and it becomes obvious when they speak, or maybe it really does. So by learning that language you really are expanding yourself beyond your culture, and the way you have always viewed the world.

So when these strange creatures are created, in a sense, it is like moving to a new country where one must learn to think, act, and interact like the locals. Still, and overall, while we are not logical creatures, since we deal with emotion, inexact thought, and biology, and because of this it is a wonder that we have any consistency at all. We all face fear, hate, jealousy, love, dislike, pain, heat and cold, and so many other things. All of this leads to a complicated creature. And if we really think about it we see much of the same reactions from our animals. So for us on this planet it appears to be something that is consistent among all of us.

When considering this, how, with so many complicated parts being involved, can we be consistent? It has been stated that it’s because of the combination of heredity and environment. Heredity determines the tendencies we are born with, and environment, or the way we are raised, will be the way we will act and react to those tendencies. With this understanding we now can begin to create our fictional characters, and why they, in the end, will be no more than mirror images or reflections of us.

In the beginning when a character is created, (at least in my case) much of what he or she is, is an unknown. For example in my novel, A Taste of History Past, book 3 in the Survival Series, I saw Kal standing in the afternoon in the middle of either fields or meadows trying to come to some decision about what was bothering him. Now if we think about it, this is consistent with any of us. Not necessarily the location, but going somewhere quiet and trying to solve some important issue that requires a quiet place so we can concentrate fully on the problem or issue. So this character shows a trait we are quite familiar with. Obviously, in this case since it is the 3rd book in the series the world he lives has existed and did not need to be created. Yet, this isn’t entirely true this time. Only the world is the same.

He exists a long time in the future from where book 2, Desperate to Survive ends. So in truth this required bringing the people of this world forward in time, including any advances, changes in culture, and their history through their myths and legends. Still when one looks at the story overall, and the players within this story, we can find parallels to our world, our time, and if we want to, look back to any time of our own world history. These fictional stories and the players within them are no different from any at any moment in time, in any culture that exists, have existed, or will exist on this world. No, the story or this novel I’ve used for an example, may not reflect any real event, but instead it reflects the tendencies that make us, us.

It is this consistency that draws us in, that allows us to anticipate what may be happening in the future of that fictional story, and to feel comfortable with the actors. We can see ourselves in them, and as a result feel empathy towards them. Making us want to cheer them on, to warn them when we, as the readers, can see things that are unknown to them. And maybe at times we can see some of our faults as we follow the antagonists, and hope that in the end they might be redeemed. Realizing that most of the time they don’t want to be redeemed and enjoy their power over others, (Does this sound familiar?) and their abilities to fool the regular folk. Psychopaths, and sociopaths immediately come to mind. For whatever the reason, their flaws are so severe that they enjoy being who they are, and what they can do against society and the individual.

And if one thing is consistent in any novel out there is this parallel world between reality and fiction. They go hand-in-hand to create these fictional worlds that we want to return to often. We want to see us in those stories. We want to watch the people in those stories grow, become more than they were at the beginning. We want to see them triumph in the end. And maybe this is the one true difference. In our own lives we have no guarantees that once our lives are over that we’ve accomplished our goals, or triumphed over our adversaries. Still in the end, and as it has been said too many times, it is the journey, what we learn and gain as time moves by us much too fast that will become our legacy. And it may be for some forgotten act that will mark who we were and how we will be remembered.

It is those failures that we learn from the most. But, a failure only remains a failure if we don’t continue to try. And every time we overcome those failures we gain. What we gain is up to us. And while those novels are static, meaning that every time you pick it up to read it again, the story remains the same with our hero or heroes winning in the end, our lives are not that way. So, in a sense, these protagonists can be someone we look up to. Someone who can give us the confidence that maybe in our own lives we can overcome those personal obstacles, learn from our mistakes, and reach our goals. Our lives only become static once we are no more. It is only then that there is no present, our past is written, and our futures are no more.

In conclusion, once again, as we read the words on the page, watching them disappear into the images within our minds, we can live, for a short time, the lives of these fictional people. People who only live within the pages of these novels. And have only become alive because of the imagination of a writer and you the reader. Yet, it is his or her observation of the real world that allows these fictional characters to live, and for us to love and hate them. And it is these fictional worlds where we see us thusly bridging the gap between the worlds of fiction and our world of reality. And many times when we have finished those novels we take a moment to reflect what was there, leaving us at times thinking about what was said, and other times leaving us with a sense of wonder. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

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