Monday, 2 November 2015

Does Fiction Really Need To Be Based on Reality?

Let's say for example that you read a fictional book set in a country based off Spain. It's not actually Spain, because this book is, after all, fictional, and so the country is a fictional country and isn't actually Spain, it's just based on Spain. So, the book you're reading takes place in a country with similarities to Spain, but it isn't actually Spain, it's just a little bit like Spain, so does that mean it has to have typically Spanish elements, like Spanish food, or Spanish accents, or Spanish culture, or Spanish beliefs, or even Spanish landmarks, or the same history as Spain, or even the same present day actions taking place as Spain? After all, this book is fictional. So, should it?

Now, let's say for example that you read a fictional book set in a country that is America. It is actually America, it's got The White House, it's got all the states exactly as they are in real life, this my friends, is America in it's basic structure as you know it, and yet, the book is fictional. It's make belief. It's set in America, but this America is not the same America you live and breathe. Barack Obama is not the president. There are no gay rights. The politics is different. The wars are not the same. It is a different take on a place that exists, that people live in, that people can walk out their front doors and see for themselves, but should it be based in reality, or can an author switch things up as they please?

The main point of those examples is that in both, the book is fictional. It is not real. In a broad term, these books can be whatever the heck these authors want those books to be about. If an author wants to write a book based in England, but everybody has five eyes, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that because the book isn't real, it isnt trying to be, it's completely, 100% fictional, so does that mean that there should be some sort of realism or everyday, real like elements woven into the story?

Me? I say no. Why?

I don't read fiction to read things I already know. I don't pick up a fiction book to learn more about social and political issues currently happening in other countries - with a bit of research, I could find out all that on my own watch - I read fiction because I want to escape the real life. I want to run away to another place, a place of make believe with features that simply don't exist in this world, or they've been based on places I know and flipped inside and out. I don't read fiction novels for reality.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. When I'm reading contemporary, I do expect some sort of realistic approach to landmarks, people, culture and beliefs, but contemporary fiction is but one fish in a pretty huge ocean of genres. It is not the only genre swimming, and when it comes to other genres, does reality really need to play such a huge part in the story?

When it comes to full on fiction, take for example fantasy, you can use inspiration based on people, or places, or history or absolutely anything else you want, but it really doesn't have to set in reality, because fiction, according to Google is: 'literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people' or, "something that is invented or untrue.' See. Totally, 100% made up. Yet, some readers come to expect some sort of reality in their fictional reads, and I beg the question, why?

If it's fictional, it isn't real. It doesn't have to be real, and that's the best part. You have no limits. The world is your oyster - hey, even worlds that don't exist are there to conquer, and conquer you can, so why the need for realism? Why the need to see The White House in America in a fictional novel? Why do you need to hear about the economy in England when you're characters are visiting London? Do we really need reality in our all our fictional genres?

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm wrong. Maybe we do need realism in our fiction. Maybe I do need to know what food Japanese people eat just incase my characters get peckish and there's nothing else available, or maybe I do need to know about the crisis in Africa when my plot is taking a quick 5 day stop off to collect an important device. Maybe we do need reality in our fiction so we have something to relate to, and without it, we'd be really confused nuggets hating our way through every book imaginable. But maybe we don't need every fictional read to be based in reality. Maybe we can expand our horizons and take a fictional book for what it is, fictional, and accept that sometimes, we need to leave reality in the real life and leave the make believe in our minds..

Do You Think We Need Reality in All Fiction?

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  1. This is why alternative timeline fiction exists. ;) And yeah, I love to base things in real life AND on fantasy versions of real life. All depends on how I'm feeling about a particular book.

    1. I think a few general touches of reality are a good thing, just to make it more relatable, but fiction is so vast! I've loved your fiction though, you strike a great balance in your fantasy reads! :)

  2. I AM SO TORN ON THIS TOPIC. (And this is suuuuch a good discussion by the way.) Because on one hand...heck yes it's fiction. And I think people get really caught up on "omg but that's not 100% right how dare you" when the book is only BASED on it. Like I heard there was a bit of an outcry over the Grisha books for misrepresenting Russia. But. Um. The fact is, it's NOT Russia. It has Russian elements but it's definitely not russia. So I think for anything that's fantasy, they should be allowed to twist things. As an author, I like to write fantasy so I can "base" my world's off other cultures and therefore not get roasted for doing it wrong. XD
    I think for contemporaries though and anything set in OUR world and in OUR time...they do need to be correct. But otherwise...LET THE FANTASY BE FANTASY!

    1. Thanks Cait, I was really nervous about posting it because it's a strange subject. I wasn't too bothered about The Grisha because I know nothing of Russia anyway, I just enjoyed the fiction for what it is, but you're so right, when it's based on, let it run wild anyway, it doesn't have to be perfect. Couldn't agree more on the contemporary angle - contemporary is much more reality than fiction, so some realism is needed!

  3. Really interesting topic! I don't think fiction needs to have a lot of realistic elements and I completely agree with Cait's point in the above comment. Why go after an author who said something is "inspired by" a certain country? It's not SET IN THAT EXACT PLACE for a reason! I think contemporary fiction should be more realistic though.

    1. Thanks Lauren! I agree on contemporary angles, that's much more set in our world and our time, so there needs to be some realistic approach, but other genres are fair game really. Thanks for visiting :)

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