Part 7: Realism

Dear Reader,

So I was reading the Hunger Games again because I wanted to remind myself what good writing Suzanne Collins uses, when I realized what I was missing from my writing sometimes. ANd what could this mystical answer to all my problems be? Realism.

This is going to apply to your writing if you feel like you might be pulled into the story, but it isn’t real enough. It feels more like a dream that has a plot. You don’t realize that these characters are just like you and me, and the world those characters live in feels just like a figment of your imagination.

It’s not that your story isn’t realistic, which most of them aren’t,  it’s that you haven’t used realism in your writing. It’s that you haven’t forced this idea to really come to life.

Okay, so that’s the problem, but how do I fix it?

I think I can help with that.

I mentioned this first strategy when I was writing a chapter about creating a character. When we are in the motion of real life, we don’t realize that we do things unconsciously. We don’t recognize when someone sneezes, or scratches their head, or bites their nails. Those may be bad examples. Mainly, we don’t take into account the things that we do automatically, like say thank you or go through the motions of a routine.

In a book, the author includes all of these things because it pulls you into the story, but you read them without really noticing. That is, unless you are me, who dissects books whether I want to or not; it’s just my crazy brain.

Another thing that I recently realized about my writing, and this could really help some of you, is that my characters are simply in the story. They aren’t pushing and pulling at the plot, they aren’t driving the plot forward. And why could that be? Two words.

Emotional connection.

In my novel, I realize that I am only creating an emotional connection between the main characters, not anyone else. No, that is not exactly true. It exists, just doesn’t feel real enough. I know that is because I need my characters act on that emotion, be confused about what they feel, to put those emotions into the reader.

This a big part of writing because f there is no emotional connection, the reader can’t relate. The most human experience is the ability to feel, the ability to have emotion. A writer should use that to connect to the reader. Give them feelings and emotions to feel when they come into the story. Make them cry, laugh, gasp in surprise, hate you for writing something because it did something to the character.

And don’t only make them act on their emotions, make the characters have to recognize them, by writing them down, or confessing their love. Make those emotions be hard on them. Make the fact that they are feeling something change the story, take something away from them, or give them something. You can also emphasize the stronger feels that they feel, like love or pain, because it’s something that is going to make your reader wonder, make them feel it too.

Another strategy is description. Not just the normal description that I’ve talked about in past chapters, but the kind that triggers interest in your reader. This is something I notice that Suzanne Collins uses a lot. Instead of describing something in a normal way, with adjectives and figurative language and all that, use something else.

Instead of describing the sky as coal black and cold, write that it’s the color of the dress that your character wore to her parent’s funeral. That pulls the reader in, because they immediately feel sorry for the character, immediately wonder what happened to their parents, and what impact it had on the character.

See what I mean? You need to use your description to pull the reader further into the story, as well as give them an image of the story. Bring them into the past, pull them backwards into the story instead of typically telling them what happened before.

I think it can be important to give your character something that will hold them back. In real life, if you think about it, there is always going to be something or someone to hold you back from the danger, to make you want to stay behind. It could be like, in the Hunger Games, Katniss’s friend Gale. She doesn’t like selling out the whole “Crazy in love” thing because she knows he’s watching, among other reasons. This is someone who is holding her back from doing what she has to do to survive.

Give your character parents who they love and would never want to defy. Give them a little brother or sister that they need to protect. Give them a responsibility that they must take care of, a line that they can never cross. And then just push them over that line and laugh at their failure.

No not really, but in the Hunger Games, Katniss feels like she needs to protect her little sister. She was pushed over the line when Prim was called in the reaping to go fight to the death. And what does Katniss do to get back to the right side of that line, to protect Prim? She volunteers as tribute.

Sorry that this is such a short chapter, which I realize that I say every week. But this week it’s especially short because I thought yesterday was Friday, but it was Saturday, and now I’m late on posting this. But I think that even if this is a short chapter, it holds a really few really big changes that you can make to help your story.

Happy writing and reading!

-Kelli.

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