Saturday, March 20, 2021

Tension in My Stories

 How do I develop tension in my stories?

Everyone understands how emotions can cause tension. How a character feels is often how the reader begins to relate to the story. Certainly, relationships between characters can cause stress. Other circumstances factor in, too, like finances, toxic work or family environments, abuse, loss of a friend or loved one, failure at an assigned or desired achievement, all of which can lead to feelings of unworthiness, worthlessness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and more. Plus these feelings can develop unhealthy ways of coping with them. All these situations can create tension for the reader, so starting with characters with problems is one way I try to create tension.

A character's self-concept also plays into emotions. That character's self-image can include their mental image that affects their self-image, their status, strengths, and beliefs. If a character's self-image is confronted in a story, it will affect them mentally and emotionally, and situational or emotional tension will also be involved. 

Situational tension is a huge aspect of how the plot leads the character into the story's purpose. People react differently to each other which often leads to opposition, dislike, hostility, and even personal danger.

Environmental factors that give tension to a story include locational dangers and hazards both nature and human-made. The world has many locations that are dangerous such as trying to climb Mount Everest (or any other mountain) to even an avalanche while skiing in a resort, or being stranded far from any help. People have developed their own dangerous situations from work sites like buildings under construction, chemical plants, or even events like Texans suffered in February--unusually bad, freezing weather leading to no electricity, no heat, and broken water pipes all during an epidemic. 

So, developing tension isn't difficult but not repeating similar situations in other books sometimes becomes a problem.

Marci Baun 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Skye Taylor 

VictoriaChatham 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Where do I get my story ideas?

Brains are amazing organs. The mental part holds memories from experiences and learning and can create imaginative ideas even when the body is not awake. Putting the two together is where stories evolve. I didn't even know I wanted to write a story until this dream character kept showing up in my mind at night. In the end, she didn't even end up in my first novel for she inspired other stories before her own, but hers is the third one in the Aegis series. 

Once started, however, new ideas and characters began to develop. Now my initial story ideas develop when I'm walking, which I think frees my mind to wander, too. Once started, though, the ideas come while writing the story. 

At the beginning of my writing, I found I liked to write science fiction and fantasy, but have since expanded into trying historical fiction and I might, maybe, even write some contemporary romance. 

While writing fantasy and sci-fi I've found I like to delve into both historical and contemporary problems and issues as background in my stories. Why these problems in the future? As conditions change, what has happened in the past can under certain circumstances, always happen again.

Storytelling is an ancient art form that has provided listeners and readers not only entertainment but also lessons about life, and I hope that is what my fiction does while taking readers on (hopefully) imaginative journeys.

Visit these authors for more about where stories come from:

Skye Taylor 

Anne Stenhouse 

Beverley Bateman 

Connie Vines 

Diane Bator 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Fiona McGier 

Helena Fairfax 

Marci Baun 

Victoria Chatham 

Judith Copek 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Goals for 2021

Here we are in a new year, and, hopefully, one better than last year although the problems of last year continue to plague us. Still, everyone has to be hopeful to be vaccinated against Covid this year, and the United States has a new president, and perhaps the divisions dividing us will grow smaller or close (ideal, but doubtful). Many qualifiers line the previous sentences, but nothing in future time is guaranteed. As an introvert, being home so long this year hasn't bothered me, and I do go out and walk as often as the weather allows her in Michigan, which is supposed to help with isolation. Winter snows so far have not been as accumulative this year. I suspect Global Warming at work. Sadly for me, last year I didn't move ahead with any novel writing.

Things are, as always, changing, including writing. New programs like Grammarly have arrived. First off, I use Grammarly and find it very helpful, but like everything, its recommendations are not always correct. Users have to be careful that they decide whether the suggestion will work in their writing or not. It just presents options to consider. I must say, it does help me with spelling and finding comma errors. Even so, I have to be selective there, too.

Do I have goals for this year? Yes, the main one being able to concentrate on my writing. I've been rather scattered with many projects going on that have affected my writing. Plus my mind has stalled. I have ideas written down for quite a few books, I just need to find new and different characters and find out what difficulties they face.  Leonard from Constantine's Legacy is beginning to haunt my mind, telling me I need to work on the second volume. I also have a goal to post at least twice a month to my three blogs. Like writing novels, that is sometimes a difficult goal to achieve. 

Besides writing, I have many other projects in art and sewing I want to complete. Then there is the house. It needs painting and some renovations. As long as life goes on, work is at hand.

Check out these authors for their 2021 goals!

Skye Taylor

Victoria Chatham 

Beverley Bateman 

Connie Vines 

Dr. Bob Rich 

Anne Stenhouse  

Diane Bator 

Fiona McGier   

Judith Copek 

Marci Baun  


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Issues with Reading


I've read books since around age six. It is a necessary skill many people are still lacking, so I was very lucky. Now I need ever stronger bifocals to keep reading and I have some macular degeneration. It is a sad state, but I'll still keep reading for as long as I can. If my vision gives out, I can still listen to audiobooks.  Few people can spend all day, every day, or even only free time, reading. 

Reading makes better writers and good writing makes good reading. Author use techniques to ensnare the reader and keep them interested in the story or topic. They keep everything in a logical order with wording that smoothly leads the reader through all the pages to the conclusion, but glitches happen.
The following issues often put me off reading:

Nonfiction:
  • Go-on-forever articles that are full of rambling off-topic opinions.
  • Articles with many unfamiliar and undefined scientific words and acronyms.
  • Must-reads required for work or any other function.
  • Legalize language in any form or content, especially in small type with little space between lines. Done purposefully I'm sure so the reader isn't inclined to read the information. Is it impossible to put important legal information someone must know into an accessible, fast-reading format?
Fiction:
  • Reading stories with characters I dislike, which is usually because of their moral viewpoint. These are the main characters, not secondary or incidental ones. If they are lying cheats I have to know right away what caused this and what mission they are on. If the character has a major turnabout in viewpoint, attitude, or behavior, then okay. However, I sometimes doubt these changes are anything more than to get their own way, so the cause of the turnabout is important.
  • Snarky first-person voices using metaphors to make the reader laugh where I'm completely ignorant of the meaning. Am I behind on cultural jargon?
  • Stories with too many characters. Yes, I'm guilty of writing some, especially in series novels. Most, however, are minor characters. Usually, I keep the main characters to four, and secondary characters to under ten. One novel, Crewkin, had seven characters total until the last chapter.
  • Knowing which character is which bothers me when the names are so close in spelling or sound very similar. I am always mixing them up. This happens often in fantasy novels with Gaelic names. I read one with five Gaelic names beginning with A. I couldn't keep any of them straight but learned the valuable lesson of watching my own characters' names spelling and pronunciation. Isn't it funny how the words sound in our minds as we read?
  • And finally, stories starting with issues listed in the previous round-robin post, What draws you into a story.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Family Story of 'The Pin'

The Pin

After my mother-in-law's memorial service, Bill, her husband, insisted my daughter and I divide her extensive costume jewelry collection.   Metta had some beautiful jewelry. One-piece I received was a large (3.5") colored crystal pin with three red rhinestone flowers, the stems were lined with small clear rhinestones. There was a note in the box saying that a friend gave it to her in Czechoslovakia in 1946.  

My Bill asked his Dad (Big Bill) to tell me about the piece of jewelry, which made me curious. I knew Big 
Bill was a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. I later learned he was part of the 78th Division's 311th Infantry which was the third infantry to cross the Remagen Bridge into Germany and also among the first U.S. Divisions to enter Berlin. The U.S. Army left Berlin in July of 1945, but the U.S. State Department asked Bill to stay, so he remained in Berlin until the end of 1946, maybe longer. He never mentioned why the State Department selected him to stay or what his job was. Once it was relatively safe, he asked his wife Metta to come to Berlin and stay with him while he was stationed there. They had commandeered a house for their lodging and had three Czechoslovakia driver-bodyguards, Jacque, Fred, and Walter. Jacque and Fred convinced Bill to take Metta for a skiing holiday in Czechoslovakia.




While skiing, they met the son of the prime minister of Czechoslovakia. Before the war, the prime minister had a business manufacturing costume jewelry. His son wanted to re-establish the business, and he asked Bill if he would be interested in becoming a salesman/partner for U.S. markets. They gave Metta a sample of the jewelry they used to make. Bill was very interested and spent an extra week there talking over aspects of the business.

Before anything could be finalized, word spread like wildfire that the Russians were taking over the country. Jacque, who Bill said was a freedom fighter and the bravest man he ever knew, turned white. Bill and Metta were rushed to their cars, a Mercedes and a BMW. Their security guards pushed Metta onto the floor in the backseat, and Bill laid on the backseat. Fred drove the Mercedes, and the BMW followed going (at times?) 100 mph for the German border.

As they neared the border crossing, they saw armed soldiers already held the gate. Fred never slowed down but drove right through the gate, busting it to pieces. It was a hundred yards to the American held gate. The soldiers fired on the two cars, riddling both trunks with bullets, but as the cars neared the American side, they stopped firing as U.S. soldiers had picked up their weapons and aimed them at those holding the Czechoslovakian gate.

They all made it safely back to Berlin, but that was the last they heard from the prime minister's son and his family even though the information was sought through American diplomatic channels and Jacque and Fred inquired through their contacts.

I now own this lovely piece of family history and will pass it along to my daughter. This past October, Bill took the pin to a jeweler. Surprisingly, he discovered the stones are not rhinestones. The red ones are semi-precious garnet stones. The white ones are diamonds. The pin is made of pot metal, a cheap metal, but one sometimes used in jewelry, and perhaps more accessible for jewelry production during the financial depression of the 30s, making jewelry more affordable. The pin has no manufacturer's identification imprint. 

While this story was told many times to Bill, the story has discrepancies. 

Recently, I've done some investigating and found some information probable and some problematic. Do I believe their story? Yes, but many of the facts are missing. I found black and white photos taken in January of 1947 at the Spindleruv Myln ski resort in the Krkonose mountains of north-eastern Czechoslovakia. It is less than five miles from Poland's border and a minimum of fifty miles to the German border, or perhaps further, considering what mountain roads would be like in the 1940s and winter. 

I  now think the pin might have been made at Jablonec Industries in Jablonec nad Nison which is about twenty miles west of the Spindleruv Myln. Jablonec Industries was well known for making jewelry and garnets were mined in the Jablonec nad Nison area. The company had faced hard times during the 30s and WWII. It is highly conceivable that Jacque, Fred, or Walter knew people in the area, including someone from Jablonec Industries who wanted to expand sales in the United States and restart their jewelry production and profits. These areas are all in what was known as the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia, which was populated mainly by German-speaking citizens and a highly contentious area in Czechoslovakia after the war. Those who spoke native Czechoslovakian hated the German speakers in their country and wanted these residents expelled no matter how long they had lived in the Sudetenland. 

The Czechoslovakian president at that time was Edvard Benes who returned home from a WW2 exile in England. The Russians began pulling out of Czechoslovakia in July of 1945. The last of the Red Army evacuated Czechoslovakia in December 1945. Evard remained president until 1947, dying in September of 1948. In May of 1946, Russian sympathizer and communist party rule supporter Klement Gottwald was elected Prime Minister. He is only listed as having a daughter, not a son. Neither Edvard nor Klement had manufacturing of any type in their family backgrounds. 

Big Bill and Metta did not speak Czechoslovakian or German, so may have misunderstood who the person offering the business deal was, or one of their guard-drivers might have misinterpreted the information. 

Do I think they were shot at? Yes. I saw photos of the back of the car. Were those shooting Russian soldiers? Maybe but most likely not. Maybe they were Czechoslovakian guards watching two cars speeding toward the border.  However, in traveling from Berlin, didn't Metta, Bill, and the bodyguards cross the border once already? Why was this time suspect? The Russians didn't invade Czechoslovakia until 1948. But if Czechoslovakia didn't have an adequate army, perhaps the Russians were assisting, or did they travel through part of Poland?  Were Russian troops stationed in either country after the war? Why would they attack Americans? Did Big Bill's position with the State Department raise questions? This all leaves lots of questions. Big Bill is gone, now, too, so can't answer questions, so I'll never know the true story.

It goes to show you that we all think we know about our parents, relatives, and friends, but we can't know everything about anyone. Sometimes we know their life experiences were as exciting as anything imaginable, more so than their everyday lives would suggest. Somethings are never told and get lost with time. So I want to encourage you to write down your and your family's stories. Ask those who know the stories what they remember before those memories get lost.





Saturday, November 21, 2020

A Book Recommendation: The Eternal City


One book I've enjoyed this year is The Eternal City: Rome as Idea and Reality, by Jessica Maier. Published by University of Chicago Press. It was just released this month (11/4). While I mostly read fiction, I enjoy many non-fiction topics such as history, how-to, and art, and in many respects, The Eternal City covers all these categories.

The concept of learning from maps is unusual as most history books are straight forward chronological records. However, as author Maier shows through her map technique Rome's population through every age has had its own perception of their city and its purpose. It shows how the change in time, populations, and their ideas and beliefs also affect history. Rome's citizens essentially changed not only the physical appearance of Rome but also overlapped those changes with the past. The city and its structure have changed both physically and spiritually over time; indeed, different cities have emerged during Rome's long history, but each was built on the past.  


Maier gives an example of this in her introduction. She writes about the church of San Clemente (a disciple of St. Peter and the 4th Bishop of Rome). The church is built in the beautiful Roman basilica style still common in the 1100s. The builders constructed the church on the foundations of another basilica dedicated to Clemente, which was built in 385CE (Current Era, another change in history). This lower basilica was in turn built on the site of the Temple of Mithras (a Roman god) constructed around 200 CE. Visitors to San Clemente can descend a staircase (through the gift shop!) to travel 60' below San Clemente to see the remains of the two previous buildings. This example shows the "vertical, chronological layering" (Maier) of Rome.  

As Maier states, "Rome is more than brick and mortar. It also exists in the realm of ideas of history, myth, and symbolism." Another purpose of her book is to show how all large cities are similar in these types of changes.

Images and ideas take the reader from the beginnings of Rome to the time of the Ceasars, to the age of popes, through Rome's decline and recovery, and now its tourist period. The Eternal City shows how the city's population changed through time and how that changed Rome. Surprisingly, each era's maps show not only the physical changes but also society's perceptions about the city.

Rome, as one of the world's oldest continuing cities, has a long progression of maps. Some have a similarity to today's concept of maps, but not as directionally precise, and historical maps are often affected by the maker's era and purpose. Others are visual landscapes of the city, which in part, also serve as maps. The book's maps, visual images, and photographs are beautiful and insightful and tied to each age's beliefs, prejudices, and sense of humanity.

In the age of global warming, this book, in some sense, is also a warning. People are creative, adaptable, and constantly changing their landscape. This book brings awareness of those changes and of how we need to be aware of them and to be more careful in our choices going forward.

For more reviews please see the following authors' posts:

Margaret Fieland 
Skye Taylor 
Diane Bator 
Anne Stenhouse   
Connie Vines  
Fiona McGier 
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Favorites in Reading

This month's topic is about what my favorite book is or books of all time are and my favorite genre. (You can include children’s books or non-fiction or even magazines). I have read a lot since first learning how to read and find it impossible to identify just one story as a supreme favorite. The titles of many books come to mind from ages ago like Boxcar Children, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Black Beauty. Looking back, maybe my mother loved horses, too. She never talked about them, but why else did she buy My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead? They were her favorites, too, and I still have her copies. (Wish I could go back and ask her now!) Just mentioning them makes want to go and reread them.

The first book I read by myself remains on my favorite list as explained in an earlier post. I think I made a mistake though. I thought Miss Hillman was my teacher, but she was my third-grade teacher and I read On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Suess Geisel) in first-grade (Miss Wilkins? Time changes memory.) It was released in 1955. I think what first attracted me was the zebra on the cover. Zebras are like horses and I was a horse-crazed little girl. The story was also very imaginative in concept, wording, and illustration. 
I continued reading and eventually, probably about sixth or seventh grade, came across Will James' novel Smoky the Cowhorse (yep, another horse theme book) at the Fenton Public Library. At the time I was walking the mile or two there and back at least once a week. I was in love with that mouse-grey horse and cried through the horrible parts of his sad history. The story won the John Newberry Medal in 1927. The Newberry Award is still given for a distinguished contribution to children's literature. James, the author, was a French Canadian artist whose writing covered the American West's cowboy culture, and Smoky the novel, held many of his illustrations. This story has taken a current trend in how horses are treated, not only at rodeos but also at our racetracks. 

When I reached fifteen in the ninth grade I started working after school in a local drugstore. For the previous three years I had worked in my family's pet store selling tropical fish and hampsters, and cleaning tanks, but didn't get paid. At the drugstore, I mostly worked behind the soda counter serving coffee, ice cream treats, and some simple to fix sandwiches. I enjoyed the work, and I was earning some money and guess what? The drug store had a sales rack for paperback books. That bookrack introduced me to romance, both current and historical, and to the genre of fantasy. Soon I was reading another of my all-time favorite novels. Andre Norton's Witch World series mesmerized me. The first volume was written in 1963 but I became familiar with the following stories so I searched and found a copy of the first story.

The drugstore's book rack introduced me to many romance authors, but one of my favorites was Georgette Heyer. She could take a reader back to another time. It showed a judgemental public was not just a modern phenomenon. I remember reading many of the titles but the one that left a lasting impression was  Devil's Cub, which I probably read in tenth grade. The hero loved his horses, too. Devil's Cub was a Georgian era time-frame story written in 1932. Heyer wrote many historical romance stories mostly in the Georgian and Regency eras, but she also wrote mystery thrillers. I mentioned this title before in the charming villains' post, and it is a story I've reread many times. I think Heyer started the trend for Regency romances which still continues today. 

My next favorite was an eleventh-grade reading assignment--Pride and Prejudice, a book written in 1813. At learning the assignment I had severe apprehension about how I could read, or even like, so old a story. I was even assigned to give a presentation on one chapter. For once though, I loved an assigned story so much, it helped me overcome my reluctance to talk before a group. Each student was given a paperback copy, but I wanted a more permanent copy, so I drove to Flint and bought a leather-bound copy at a book store. My daughter has it now. It surprised me several years later that my (male) college instructor for the class masterpieces in English literature talked about this story. He claimed to have read it twenty-seven times. I'm not certain I've read it that many times, not even half of that. I have, however, seen all the TV and movie shows. Some are good renditions, but I get very upset when they change things.

My last listing is the Lymond Chronicles of six novels about the Scot Francis Crawford of Lymond. Another historical novel, but this one is about the era and not so much romance, although there is some. Scottish novelist Dorothy Dunnet also wrote mysteries. This is a wonderful series published between 1961 and 1975.  Again, I found it as a paperback in the drug store. From my drugstore bookrack experience, I had become enamored of all store bookracks, although I kept my habit of haunting libraries, too. 

According to RR Bowker, at least 275 thousand books (all genres, both fiction and non-fiction) are published each year. That is an overwhelming number. Who knows what great books I've missed?  

Visit these sites for more views on this topic.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Intuitive Themes in Novels


Most novels have an easily understood point to make to the reader. Do stories ever have a more subtle or intuitive theme?

Actually, this is a hard question to answer.

To intuit is "to know, sense, or understand by intuition" (Merriam Webster definition). Intuition is what we understand, often unconsciously, about any situation. A condition usually based on our previous experiences, our senses, and our primal instincts. In writing, if used intentionally, it is good because the author involves the reader on different levels of perception. But it might be unconsciously used with unexpected results and the reader can sometimes perceive themes in writing that the author never intended. Words and minds are tricky things.

Since every word can give slightly different meanings and connotations, it shows how the author's intent in using certain words can sometimes differ dramatically from how a reader understands them.

When might it be a conscious choice by the author? An aware author can use situations that leave the reader to decide what the character felt beyond the obvious action. When a reader encounters a situation they have experienced, either emotionally or physically, then they intuitively know the cause for the character's reaction. 

This often happens when the author uses a show rather than tell method. Showing usually involves the use of description especially in a character's actions and expressions, leaving it to the reader to share the character’s reaction from their personal understanding. The reader's perception might be very emotional, especially if they have experienced the same or similar situations. This often happens in emotional scenes, so most writing probably has intuitive emotional themes.

The opposite can happen, too, from both author’s and the reader’s perspectives. An author might unintentionally insert oblique messages, and since we all experience life differently, we all have a slightly different understanding of what is happening. The reader might also have had a very different reaction to an experience, meaning their understanding of the scene might differ from what the author intended.

We often use gut instinct for insight. Intuitive means a reader can understand without a lot of explanation from the author because the situation or emotions are so familiar. They don't have to think about the meaning. They know it. While these subtle reactions might be unacknowledged, they still have an impact on the reader.


My guess is I’ve used intuitive writing and that most authors have also used it, especially since one goal of fiction writing is to engage the reader’s emotions.

Please visit the following blogs for other takes on this topic.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Eden and Guy

Eden was pruning her roses when she spied a curled up snake. Grabbing the snake directly behind its head, Eden tugged it from the tangle of shrubbery.

“Gotcha. Damn snake. Don’t care if you are good for the garden. I don’t want you in mine.” Its length coiled around her arm. She put her garden pruners to the serpent’s head.

“Don’t kill me.”

Eden jumped, gasped, and a middle-aged bladder leaked. Death-grip fingers grasping the snake released as she tried to fling the thing away. The serpent’s coils clung to her arm. Her voice clogged in her tight throat. “You spoke!” She stretched her arm out as far as she could to get the serpent away from her.

“Yes. I’m an explorer from the galaxy Peareedeeessiss.”

Her mind flooded with movie images of alien invasions. “You'll destroy my world!” She clicked the pruner blades open.

“No! Wait! Just sightseeing. Don't hurt, please?” Pleading tones turned supplicant. “I can change into any shape that pleases you.”

She looked into the alien’s beady eyes and angular face. Was changing shapes any stranger than a talking snake?

“Change like a werewolf or a vampire?” Curiosity tickled her imagination. “Anything?”

“Even a human.” The alien’s coiled body slithered over her forearm in a sensual touch.

Eden hesitated as the sensation brought romantic reminiscence of her husband Guy trailing arousing fingers in such a way. Not that for one instant did she believe Guy’s love had faded, but mutual interests had long ago changed to singular pursuits.

An explorer… a stranger in an unknown place; perhaps he desired companionship as much as she did?

“Change into anything?”

“Yessss.”

She took him inside. What was she to do with him? Let him slither around the house? Get away? No. She popped him in the empty cookie jar. Always empty now as the kids were gone and she didn’t need the extra calories. The alien’s coiled up body just fit.

Guy came home from work. “Hi, sweetie.” He gave Eden a perfunctory kiss and then found the TV remote. “Big game tonight. Mind if I have dinner in here?” He sank into the couch.

“Sure, honey. You can watch the game over dinner. You mind if I go out?”

“Not at all. You have plans with your girlfriends?”

“No, but while you watch the game, I might as well visit the library, or maybe the museum.”

“Great.”

Guy’s supper served, Eden changed to dressier clothes. Guy didn’t notice when she walked through the living room with his suit draped over her arm. Already the announcer’s voice boomed game statistics and predictions over rousing music.

In the kitchen, she pulled the snake from the cookie jar. It wrapped around her arm. “Be Guy.”

The snake fell from her arm and morphed into Guy. She handed him the suit. “Let me take you out to dinner,” Eden said as he dressed. “Afterward, I can show you my world.” Exciting opportunities opened her mind and Eden smiled. She brushed some scales off the shoulders of the suit as the serpent pulled on the jacket.

As she opened the door to the garage, Eden heard Guy shout from the living room, “Bye. Have a good time.”

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Reality in Stories -- no matter how bizarre

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. – Tom Clancy, suspense novelist, 1947-2013.

This month's topic is about how to make a story feel more realistic to the reader and what elements achieve this.

In most novels establishing reality isn't hard. The author develops characters representing specific people in specific locations and times; then they add plot lines readers can relate to in some way.

So what is reality? Merriam Websters defines it as the state of being real, a real event, entity, or state of affairs, and the totality of real things and events.

We all know we live on the planet Earth, share the same sun and moon, and see the same galaxy at night. We share Earth with seven billion other humans, so we believe we are real and know the reality of where we dwell and what we do there. Humans have very similar requirements for living, particularly water, food, sleep, and personal relationships. We are social creatures who share similar emotions. We have interactions with other real people and experience many real, even if odd, situations, and we often enjoy telling others about them and hearing their strange events. However, each of us knows the reality of a different place, its weather, family, society norms, education, and living conditions, so our realities vary. We are also different from our past populations' reality as ever-shifting time changes the basic reality of life on this planet and will continue to do so until the species or planet dies. It might be that experiencing the realities of others, even fictional characters in stories make us appreciate our own reality, or change our mental knowledge and images of others and their reality. And don't even go into the bizarre concepts involved in quantum physics reality.

In most genres, authors are writing about real locations and standard human types. Only science fiction, fantasy, and horror introduce situations and characters with powers beyond the basic human scope, but even the strangest characters often share well-known human characteristics. However, my previous post on “How Far Can Fantasy Go?” mentions how people enjoy the unbelievable and have enjoyed fantasy stories far longer than our know stories. Witches, demons, mythological gods, and monsters of various ilk, have been stars in stories forever. Today it only takes the writer's imagination to create a world, and the reader's imagination to believe it. Besides that, everyone knows of situations where the ordinary world became extraordinary in special circumstances.

Reality in Characters:  A growing quantity of anthropological proof declares the basic human, i.e. physical, mental, emotional aspects, haven't changed that much from prehistorical times. That means whatever time frame you read or write in, human responses remain the same. Most authors' characters run the huge gamut of the understandable traits and responses of both sane and insane people. Yet sometimes characters can be written to be too good which raises readers' suspicions as they know we all have flaws and insecurities that can drive our reactions. Insanity can reach unfathomable unrealities but still be believable. For me, however, the author can reach such a level of improbability, reality falls away. I’m reading a story now with a killer who wants to protect his illegal industry, but enjoys watching the agony of death, the more anguish and physical pain, the better. I am having trouble reading it. Yet I’ve watched TV shows about serial killers whose practices also seem unreal; unfortunately, the murders they committed happened. So it is possible the previously mentioned characters will have some readers who believe in them. If characters have a full range of emotions, strengths and weaknesses, good traits and bad, the reader will most likely believe them.


The web and dimensions of reality
Reality in Settings: In most stories, settings are part of the world people know, so easily provide a basis for reality. Yet, I’ve run into problems writing reality into settings of historical novels. The further back in time a story is set (the same is true for fantasy stories), what the world looks like including the changes in social mores and beliefs of the time, the more the setting becomes unfamiliar to readers. On the other hand, so many stories are set in the 19th Century, many readers are very familiar with the society and some may believe the books show exactly what that world was like, which is not true. As I am familiar with some historical information about the time, I've noted authors have changed historical mores to make the characters more contemporary, so more believable. Some readers look for such stories, others have problems with it, and some (especially historians) turn critical. The same is true in future based stories.

Reality in Plot:
This storyline is more difficult as plots can differ in many ways. The key to plot reality is the action and reaction response of the characters due to the action presented in the story. A person’s reaction to a situation differs in real life depending on their personality type and their life issues. The same type of response should be designed into the story’s characters. If a character’s response isn’t what a reader thinks appropriate, then the author needs to build the character’s personality enough for the reader to realize why they acted in a different way from what the reader expected.

Story reality isn’t that difficult until readers encounter those unusual places, events, or characters in a story.  Then it is a case of building the story's reality in a step-by-step introduction for each new reality change.

For other viewpoints see the following authors' blogs:

Skye Taylor 
Victoria Chatham  
Judith Copek 
Diane Bator 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines