I was at the Montgomery Book Festival last week on a “Just Keeping it Real” panel with Christina Mandelski, Stasia Ward Kehoe, and Jessica Warman (all fabulous and so much fun to spend the day with). Our books span the various genres under the umbrella of realistic fiction– mystery, romance, coming-of-age, historical. An audience member asked us why we wrote realistic fiction, and I have been chewing on that question ever since.
There is an easy answer – I don’t know that anyone chooses to write what they write. I believe that the story chooses the writer more than the writer chooses the story. There aren’t many writers who would turn down any great story idea that tickles their consciousness, but I think there’s more to it than that.
I love that my characters have to draw from the same strength, magic, intelligence, resilience, and luck that the rest of us have. When things get tough, they have to dig deep inside themselves for their resources. I think reality stretches our capacity, revealing the light and dark in the fabric of our humanity.
As a reader I am drawn to a wide variety of writing, and I am glad that there are writers who write the dystopian, fantasy, and thriller books that allow me to escape into worlds I never imagined. I suppose there is always a measure of reality in stories. The world and its rules may be imagined, but the relationships and the emotions are usually real. In the same way, there is a measure of extraordinary in realistic fiction. The world is real or rooted in reality, but the characters, their situations, their actions stretch far beyond ordinary into extraordinary.
I write realistic fiction because reality is gritty and messy and chaotic and so very, very real.