Reality can't just go onto the page and work as a book.

In real life (IRL for you gamers out there) people really do just taaaaalk about nothing. They talk about their daaaaayy or the weeeaaather...all the time! But that isn't the stuff of dialogue in fiction--unless it's meant to demonstrate something. A dissolving couple, for instance.

IRL, people really do just jet off somewhere and then come back and resume their life. They do just take up random hobbies or investigate friends' murders in lieu of the police (OK, not that one. Hint hint, amateur sleuth writers).

But not in books. Books have to be life, distilled. Only purposeful things go into a book. Dialogue and character decisions that move the plot forward.

Books are realer than life.

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Unknown said...

Oh, the same should totally extend to description. I really don't care to hear about characters waking up, brushing teeth, showering, choosing outfit, getting dressed, putting make up on, eating breakfast cereal. And all the homework, homework, homework descriptions. Just...NOO.

Shauna Granger said...

Thanks, sometimes, as I go over my MS for the 185th time, I think "this wouldnt happen for real." And I worry someone reading it will hold that against me but the story cant happen without (instert weird, wouldn't happen in real life action here). So its cool to read this.

TirzahLaughs said...

Books are reality with focus.

Regular reality is much less linear.


Alyson Greene said...


Life is messy and boring and random and bizarre and our reactions and emotions don't make sense and people who are SUPPOSED to be together aren't.

We read fiction to find ourselves in a neat world that makes sense. Even if there are aliens, vampires, robots, and mermaids. At least they follow the rules of our expectations, unlike life.

Meredith Barnes said...

@Elizabeth Yes!!!! We call that "overwriting."

@Tirzah OMG did you just say my blog post better than I did?!

B.E.T. said...

Too true. And a very good thing to keep in mind. Unfortunately I'm guilty of adding in a few too many mundane details in my roughs. But hey, anything to get through writer's block until an idea hits! Cutting is your best friend! :D

TirzahLaughs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TirzahLaughs said...

@ Meredith--if I did, I didn't mean too. HOnest. :)

It's like when people try to write a memoir, writers have a hard time understanding that there are versions of reality. All true and all a lie at the same time.

If I were writing about my life, I could focus on my writing, my two brothers' deaths or on the year I did stand-up comedy. All are true. All could easily be my memoir.

But to make it a good memoir, I have to focus on one aspect of my life, giving it center stage and letting the other aspects fade a bit into the background. This gives the story 'life' on the page.

Real life is where everything happens in a hodge podge of confusing overlaps and large tracts of utter boredom.

But learning that about memoirs makes fiction so much easier. Because fiction is the story of not-real people, sort of a memoir for virtual people.

I have to choose the focus and let the boring stuff be understood 'off-stage'.

Do you think Hamlet would have been interesting if we had to see the Prince of Denmark crouching over a flower-painted chamber pot?

Dunno. I doubt it.

In real life, I have to sit through the three hour discussion of mutual funds when my brother visits. I die a bit inside.

In fiction, I could sum the torture up in a sentence and move on.

Tara Tyler said...

I was wondering what made you think to post this? It made me think of blogs turning into books and how I don't see that as a good thing for all.

You're absolutely right about skipping over the "what do you wanna do?" "I dunno. What do you wanna do?" and getting to the good part where they decided to steal a car for a joy ride and there was a kid in it.

Unknown said...

Great post! When I'm reading I don't want real life; I want there to be more life than real ;)

Karen Baldwin said...

Yeah, just think if we watched "real" housewives from Beverly Hills, Atlanta, Miami, New York, Orange County, New Jersey. Dare I say boring? (don't slam me, ladies, I'm just saying.)