When it comes to fiction, I usually steer clear of literary works. Not that there's anything wrong with fiction that reads like most nightly news hours; I just prefer a dash of magic and a healthy heaping of fantasy when I sit down to absorb someone else's world.
Reading fantasy, however, doesn't meant that I am adverse to realism. The best fantasy books are those that seem so real, that are suffused with such detail and recognizable elements that I forget that I am, in fact, reading fiction. We all know that Middle Earth existed only in Tolkien's imagination; but when we're reading it, we would swear it really existed.
Where is that fine balance between completely over the top and firmly grounded in reality? Honestly, I don't think it has anything to do with balance but with writing about what you know. Yeah, I know; you're tired of hearing that. But my life's BORING, you whine. No one wants to read about what I know. Really? Think about it. We all bring to the plate experiences, both REAL and IMAGINED. My idea of a unicorn may not necessarily be the same as your idea of a unicorn. And I know for a fact my idea of the characters in A Wrinkle in Time are NOT the same ideas held by film makers, graphic novel illustrators, or book cover designers.
But I digress...
We read fiction because we want an escape from our own reality. We read fiction to imagine what life would be like if we walked a different path, in a different body, a different town, a different planet. Whether we read literary fiction or science fiction isn't the point. What matters is the story. STORY is built upon the backbone of truth. Truth in fiction, of course, is speculative. When we write a story, it's true to us. When we read a well crafted story, we know it was true for the author.
As writers, we need to dig deep to find our own truth. We have truths in every aspect of our lives. From our elementary school to our hometown to the dog that belonged to the crotchety old neighbor across the street we all have something from our pasts we can pull into words and make our own. Our imaginations provide us with the rest -
- especially if we write about unicorns ;)
Write real, write hard ...