How Important Is Realism In Fiction?

Some readers have written to tell me they deeply identify with my depiction of the mental/emotional toll experienced by survivors of abuse, and the gradual and erratic process of recovery.  Others write to say they’re tired of the slow progress and they demand to know why Aydan and Hellhound don’t just ‘get over it’. 

What do you think?  How does this affect the overall story arc and the character arcs throughout the series?  Is it realistic?  How important is realism in fiction, and how do you define ‘realism’?

16 thoughts on “How Important Is Realism In Fiction?

  1. How do I define realism in fiction? If the circumstances fit me or someone I know, it’s real. Then again, my wife says it best (when referring to me, just to be clear):

    My delusions are my reality.

    Has a nice ring to it, yes? 🙂

    In a lot of cases, trying to ‘just get over it’ is a process, not a box that can be checked before taking a deep breath and blowing rainbows and sunshine out of one’s, er, whatever.

    Aydan’s reality is completely plausible. Just when she’s about to get it together, her world is crushed beyond recognition, rolled up into a ball, and drop-kicked into a bucket of acid. Figuratively speaking. (Gad, I hope that’s not a plot-spoiler for Book 12!)

    And it is fiction, after all. NDAs notwithstanding, of course. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The books are believable, they are perfect the way they are. As much as I’d love Arnie and Aydan to get together I think it’s better the way it is convention says you should be in a relationship, but I’ve always done my own thing.
    Unlike Aydan I’ve not been emotionally abused to the point I don’t want to be in a relationship I’m just happy being me. I’ve had a lot of not so great experience’s in the past but that’s not to say I wouldn’t try again, but that’s me and its not like I’m rushing out to look. In that respect I can relate to aydan.

    I know things change with each book and I love that, ultimately that’s your choice Diane and we should respect your choice’s regarding your books

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I always think it’s funny when we demand ‘realism’ in fiction. I catch myself thinking, “Well, that was totally unrealistic – it would never happen!” And then I have to remind myself all over again of the definition of ‘fiction’. 🙂

    But I think maybe it’s not really ‘realism’ I’m hoping for in fiction, it’s ‘truth’. For example, I can easily accept a story containing magic and unicorns as long as the author sticks to the rules they’ve created for their magic; but when I read a cozy mystery where the protagonist takes over an investigation and tells the police what to do, I snort and think, “Totally unrealistic!”

    Unless… the cozy mystery takes place in a tiny town where the ‘police force’ consists of a single person who’s in over their head and looking for guidance. Then I can accept it. Both are ‘fiction’, neither are ‘realistic’, but the second example rings ‘true’.

    So in terms of Aydan and Arnie getting over their respective issues, the ‘reality’ is that they might be able to, with a lot of time and support, but most people never completely overcome that kind of damage. On the other hand, the ‘truth’ that we want for them is that some people do heal and go on to rebuild their lives as stronger, happier people.

    Am I capable of walking the fine line between telling a ‘truth’ while maintaining enough ‘realism’ to be satisfying? Time will tell… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have complete faith in your ability to walk that line. Why wouldn’t I? You’ve already done it for ELEVEN BOOKS! No two are alike, there’s always something new and fresh going on, the new characters who are introduced along really do need to be there and are well done. Plausible? Completely. Predictable? Not even close. And the good guys are people I’d like to hang out with at Blue Eddie’s, and may jam some blues with Arnie and the band if they could use a horn player. The, er, other guys…well, I can handle a backhoe, too. Just sayin’… 🙂

      More about realism. Robert Heinlein spoiled me absolutely rotten when I was a much younger dood. He wrote science fiction, yes, but the science was absolutely spot on. If he said it would take, say, 241 days for a trip to Mars with a particular thrust to a specified velocity, he would calculate it all out by hand on a roll of butcher paper with a slide rule to verify it. And his wife, Jenny, also a redhead by the way, would work it all out again using a different method to check his work. They did it that way every time. The fiction part of his work was fiction, but the science part was actual science. And the stuff he wrote that was pure speculation was still completely plausible.

      Gad, that sort of thing is SO scarce today.

      And that is the other reason I’m such a fan. All the network stuff and all the cool weapons stuff is perfectly plausible.

      You keep writing, sista, I’ll keep reading. I don’t see a problem here. After all, my delusions are my reality. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agreed!!! UGH!! Thanks! So glad I know a writer (cough, cough) who can express what I’ve been trying to figure out how to say.
      It is exactly what you said: it has to ring ‘true’.
      I love to read books that suspend reality (vampires, werewolves, space cowboys!) As long as they aren’t far out there!!!
      As far as Aydan and Arnie and the “just get over it”-that statement sounds like impatience to me! LOL I know we all would LOVE for something to become ‘solid’ as far as a relationship, but I think if it ever comes to that, the books may loose their allure.
      Think of all your favorite shows that have sunk like the Titanic after the main characters finally “get over it” and get together….the sexual tension and the ‘will they/won’t they’ disappears, and then their lives are….well….normal and boring! LOL
      We all love the idea of a happily ever after, but even Disney finished after they guy gets the girl!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Books have to ring true to the characters once they have been created. If a character can fly, the author must provide a reasonable explanation if he quits being able to fly. I believe the same applies to emotions. In addition. I think it would destroy my belief in these guys if they suddenly were ready to throw flowers and hug everyone. Thank you for giving us amazing people to love.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Realism is an odd idea when discussing fiction.

    I paint realism as filtered through my brain. The colors I use are not exactly realistic, but more the way I’d prefer them to be or perhaps it is a deeper truth- the potential truth. I have very good drawing skills that allow a level of realism without using a tedious amount of detail. A favorite portrait painter of mine has far less accuracy in the drawings that underpin her paintings and I think the inaccuracies do not detract from gaining a good likeness of her subjects and allow an unsentimental emotional truth to be the most important element in her paintings. (Alice Neel, if you’re interested in looking her up- especially her painting, Nancy and the Twins. It is a far more realistic depiction of motherhood than I’ve ever seen before or since.)

    Sometimes fiction is more truthful when it is far from realistic. One of my favorite novels is Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie. He wrote it to try to explain to his young son why he was living in hiding from those who wished to kill him for writing a work of fiction. One line in Haroun and the Sea of Stories that causes a great deal of trouble for Haroun is when he asks his storytelling father, “What is the use of stories when they aren’t even true?” In a story filled with mechanical flying birds that take Haroun to the OTHER moon that circles the earth- the hidden moon- and that has other fantastic unbelievable characters, situations, and lands, the book explains where creativity comes from and the truths embedded in books of fiction and fantasy.

    I think that Diane’s emotional truths are far richer and truer than any other contemporary author I know of, especially when dealing with Hellhound and Aydan’s emotional scars or open wounds. The fact that they are depicted as having pure honesty in their dealings with each other, and in discussing the nuances of their emotional injuries brings each other a great amount of comfort and rest, is enough for me. I can’t say I have any first-hand experience of complete healing from the various life traumas I’ve been through, although with time and insight, the immediacy of the pain diminishes. I feel I’ve experienced many of the same impulses as Aydan, not from the same sort of history necessarily, but it all feels very familiar. What I especially appreciate is the characters are not totally healed after one or two talks, or by learning a few coping strategies from a therapist. They don’t live “happily ever after”, but they go on with renewed strength to continue on to the next thing that comes their way. And isn’t that far more realistic than “happily ever after”?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I love that you are interested. I just tried to drag and drop one of my images of my work into my reply without success. I have a website and I am googleable, but my good stuff doesn’t come up, and you also get a ton of stuff from people whose names are similar to mine. My website is a work in (not very much) progress. If I sent you a link to it, you’d get one lovely painting with some graphics on top, but no buttons that are clickable to show you more or to get any information. I’ve lost most of what work I’ve done on the website by clicking on the wrong things. Best I can offer is to ask Diane to give you my email address or vice versa and I’ll send you some photos of my work. I do my best work in soft pastel although I have worked in most painting and drawing mediums. I do landscape and portrait/figure work more often than other genres. Most of my landscapes are either of Minnesota, or the Pacific Northwest- mostly Washington State’s temperate rainforests, mountains and coastline.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, El Tea, that’s a wonderful endorsement! And I love your comparison to painting. I have a kind of hopeless envy for artists like you who can perfectly depict the soul of their subjects with a few strokes – not ‘realism’, but magnificently realistic nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And I have equal admiration for those who can conjure up complex personalities and plots out of seemingly thin air, or write plays, make movies, those who compose original melodies, pair it with lyrics that may move their audience to tears, or fill them with joy, get them moving to the beat.

        Real creativity isn’t just for artists, writers or musicians. It includes all those who problem solve. It is designers who make useful things or buildings to live or work in, programmers who make better applications, people who can fix things that have broken, teachers who find ways to reach the struggling student, it is all of us, really.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. My daughter is a network engineer with a big cell phone company who bought her own copies of the Spy books as she wasn’t willing to wait to borrow mine. I asked her how “real” she found the network configuration. I know I can’t deal with most medical shows on TV because of how unreal things are. She told me she had no problem with the descriptions, they sounded pretty realistic to her under the circumstances –she has no network key after all.

    Liked by 3 people

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