Fiction, by definition, deals with information or events that are not factual. It is imaginary. Made up. Unreal. Ironically, the best fiction is successful entirely because it feels real.
You don’t need flowery language to create an entertaining story. You don’t need an engaging theme. You don’t need a brilliant idea or a pressing agenda. You don’t even need an entertaining story to tell an entertaining story. You just need tightly focused truths.
Accurately recounted mundane details. These are what it takes to make a story resonate. This rule applies regardless of genre. You can write a science fiction story about the methane breathing leviathans of kreeborg 6, wholly made-up creatures from an entirely ficticious world, and if you successfully convey how the main character becomes nervous and gassy while interacting with his secret crush, or gets annoyed by his inept boss, or feels bored in church, your reader is going to be engaged.
Readers are demanding beasts. They wish to immerse themselves in the imaginary worlds contained within the pages of the books they read. They insist that the characters they find there engage in extraordinary feats, and take part in outrageous events. They read to escape from the real world, and so they desire to be carried away, to pal around for an hour or two with the highly improbable, and the mostly impossible.
They crave this release, and yet they are picky. They are tricky. They must be wooed. The average reader can suspend disbelief only so much. The writer has to meet them half way. The reader wants to make a connection with their favorite storybook characters, but this connection can only be established within the limited scope of the reader’s actual experiences. The savvy writer understands this restriction. The successful writer exploits it.
A limited example. I read a story. The main character is a woman, and a detective, and a heroin addict. I am none of those things. I can’t connect. I hate this story. But wait! The main character attends a funeral, and during the service, all she can think about are sandwiches. Highly inappropriate given the situation. And yet, I myself have been to a funeral. I have also thought about sandwiches, and how attractive the widow is, and various other inappropriate topics that I would never admit to out loud, but since this junkie detective bitch is admitting it, she’s suddenly speaking my language. I’ll bite. I’m committed. Well played clever author.
The unbelievable can always be made believeable. The unachieveable can seem feasible. It is a funny business, speaking the truth. You can use the most mundane of imagery, and the basest of details, and if you do it correctly, you can tell people anything. Even lies. Even fiction. And that’s the truth.
I’m not happy with this post. It doesn’t feel complete, but I don’t know how to better express what i’m trying to say.