I am finishing off edits on my new book — tentative titled Honeymoon Hazards — so I’ve been thinking a lot about writing in the abstract.
One of the things that I try to do when I write is create characters and reactions that feel realistic. I think a lot of people confuse realism with commonality.
A story, whether long or short, is inherently about an uncommon situation. No one wants to read a story about an ordinary day. What’s more, no one wants to read a story that develops in real time. So as a writer, you’re inherently creating something that is “unrealistic” in a very important sense — you are writing about an exceptional situation and really, usually, only focusing on certain key moments.
Most of my writing revolves around the theme of sexual betrayal and exploration. My characters cheat on their partners, they get into inappropriate relationships, and they seek out novel sexual experiences. All of these things tend to resolve themselves over the course of a couple of hundred pages as the characters struggle with their emotions, grow (usually), and reach some sort of accommodation with their new situation. The speed at which all of this occurs is also unrealistic. Again, a story is about focusing in on those transitions, not in all the down-time in between.
Finally, a lot of my characters tend to have exaggerated physical attributes. The women are all beautiful. The men handsome. There are an uncommon number of sexual dynamos in the narrative. Now, I’ll admit there is a lot of fantasy there. Writing about beautiful people having exuberant sex is more fun that writing about out-of-shape people have missionary sex under the covers. But, more importantly, I tend to write in the first person. I just feel more comfortable with it, and first person narrative is inherently in someone’s head. Since I am writing about attraction and emotions (lust, jealousy, insecurity, etc.), there is is inevitably going to be some exaggeration. In those moments of first attraction, we notice and exaggerate certain attributes. We see that long, silky hair, the full breasts, and not the thick ankles or beginning of crows feet at the eyes.
But given those factors, I do try to capture some essence of realism, or truth. People do cheat. Their partners often do forgive them. In my stories, the timelines are compressed. Characteristics are magnified, and yet I’d like to think that the characters feel plausible and whole.
I’ll post an update about Honeymoon Hazards later this week. But it is COMING SOON!