Are they real?

c. 50

c. 50 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you working through lunch again?” the man asked as I pulled out my notebook.

“Yeah, but this is fun work,” I replied, smiling.  I plopped the MS for The Lokana Chronicles down on the table.

He bent closer to inspect the title page.  “What’s this?  A novel?”

“Yep.  And here’s the sequel,” I said, removing the MS for Remnants from my purse.  It hit the table with a thud.

He took another look.  “You wrote these?”

My waitress joined us.  “You’re a writer?”

“Yep.”

Her eyes widened.  “Wow!  I always see you writing in your little notebook…”

“This is usually what I’m working on,” I said, smiling again.

I told them a little about my work and the man asked if he was part of my story.  I said no.  Then he asked, “Are they real?”

By real, I thought he meant published, and was forced to admit that they weren’t.  What he really meant was to ask was are they fiction or non-fiction, to which I happily replied that they were fiction of the fantasy variety.

“Oh, so you could put me in there!”

“As what, a grumpy old man?” the waitress replied.

We all laughed.  News of my writing spread quickly, which flattered me immensely and ended with one man asking me to autograph his copy of my book when I get it published.  That’s assuming a lot, but I assured him it would happen if and when the time comes.

But that question ate at me.  At what point does a book become real, and does category have much, if anything, to do with it?

From Anne Warren Weston to Deborah Weston; Fri...

From Anne Warren Weston to Deborah Weston; Friday, January 6, 1837 p2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My characters are certainly real to me.  So is Lokana, the world in which most of the action in my books occurs.  I may not always accurately portray that reality, but that doesn’t diminish it for me.  Every writer has room to grow.

And what is it that defines that reality?  Is it perhaps the theme of the work as a whole, the messages you can find hidden on each page if you simply look?  Or is it the people, the setting, the events that unfold within the story?

If it’s the theme, then perhaps things like genre and category are meaningless.  Fantasy novels can show us just as much about people and life as the most stunningly written literary novel.  Nonfiction can be profoundly illuminating even when highlighting life’s myriad absurdities.  I read to experience things I otherwise would not, and to learn things I otherwise might not, and if you’re doing it right, you’ll learn something from everything you read.

The people and events depicted in books, as in movies, are examples of heightened reality, of reality devoid of all the boring routines that get most of us through each day.  Does that make them less true-to-life, or more?  Without the routines so many of us rely on and thrust into a series of extreme events, is humanity at both its best and its worst laid bare for closer scrutiny?  I think so.  After all, one’s own character is forged through trial, and so it should be in books.

My books feature complex characters and deal with real-world issues.  I think that makes them real, and I hope that people will someday learn something – about themselves, about their world, either as it is or as they would like it to be – from reading my mad scribblings.

Of course, first I have to get published.  To do that, I need to finish revising.  To the writing cave!

What about you – has writing ever caused you to question reality, either in books or in life?  What conclusions did you reach?

(c) 2013.  All rights reserved.

19 thoughts on “Are they real?

  1. jeff markowitz says:

    As writers, we carry a world around inside our head for months, perhaps for years. Somehow we manage to get that world down on paper. My stories become real when the world that was stuck in my head gets stuck inside a reader’s head.

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  2. willmacmillanjones says:

    Sadly my characters are so real that they have developed a complex life of their own, over which I seem to have no control. And they all get together to shower me with abuse. I have been told that I talk t them in my sleep. Not that they’d listen to me…

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  3. M T McGuire says:

    What Jeff said… and Will. Most of my brain has lived in K’Barth (my personal Lokana) since before I can actually even remember making it up. I feared that when I grew old and lost my marbles I’d be talking about all these people and nobody would know who they were. And then I published the book (myself, I’m afraid) and now, suddenly an absolutely huge part of me and, arguably, my world which absolutely NO-ONE knew about is suddenly out there.

    The moment came shortly after I’d published the first book, I suppose. Somebody asked me about the characters and started talking about them as if they were real people. She was saying how lovely one was, and how she loathed another and I remember just feeling totally, completely liberated. That this huge secret part of my life had been shared with other people. And I think that moment, when I realised that my characters were real to someone else, is when the book became ‘real’ to me.

    I guess the true point it becomes real is a matter of perception! 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

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    • Kay Kauffman says:

      My mind has been stuck in Lokana for the last eight or nine years, but I think at this point I’m no nearer to publishing my characters’ various exploits there than I was when I first put pencil to paper. They keep telling me I’m not through yet, even though I thought I was. So for right now, I’ll keep revising and hopefully I can start submitting to agents again shortly after the new year. 🙂

      And I agree – reality is definitely a matter of perception! 🙂

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  4. Daphne Shadows says:

    There’s a series which made me realize a few important things about myself, and continues to illuminate things I otherwise wouldn’t take a look at. Books of any and every genre can connect with you and help you in your life, wherever you are.
    So, yes, I believe fantasy fiction is still, “real”. ;D

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