Confession time: I have issues with fiction.
Which is odd, because I write fiction. Or maybe that explains everything.
The thing is, I crave authenticity. But authenticity is hard to find in fiction, especially when it comes to characters and endings.
Much too often, the characters are simple stereotypes or completely lack depth. They’re missing the motivation for their actions or any true personality. I’m a big fan of personality. I want characters to be quirky and full of life, like real people are. I want them to talk like real people. Instead what I hear coming out of their mouths are the words the author shoves in there. All the characters have the same vocabulary, and they begin to share viewpoints. Every one of them is clearly good or clearly bad, and they do whatever they need to in order to advance the plot. Even if it’s completely out of character for them.
Then there are the endings. Oh, the endings. In most cases, one of two things happens. If the book is any sort of inspirational fiction or sentimental story, the ending is picture-perfect. The girl with absolutely no military training busts onto the terrorist compound and saves everyone. (To be honest, I kinda wanted her to get killed, or at least seriously injured. Dumb characters shouldn’t be hailed as heroes.) Everyone’s reconciled, the bad people turn good, and they all live happily ever after. It’s all so syrupy-sweet, it makes me gag.
If it’s a classic or other form of standard fiction, the ending could be gritty and depressing. Aliens suck the life out of all the remaining humans. War destroys the entire earth. The main character succumbs to his/her battle with illness. It’s the kind of ending that leaves you going “Why did I just read this book? Now I’m depressed.”
Real life falls somewhere between the two extremes. And all too often, fiction fails to capture it.
Authenticity. It’s a tricky beast. You want to be real while still giving the reader hope. At least, that’s what I want. I want to write fiction full of characters who are honest and raw, and story lines that entertain while encouraging readers to think for themselves. I’ve read far too many forgettable books. They’re like marshmallows — sweet and fun but mostly air. And once they’re gone, they don’t leave a trace.
The best kind of fiction leaves an imprint. Why? Because you relate to it in some way. Authenticity. That story has captured a part of you or your life.
Of course we don’t read fiction because we want real life. I get that. But I think we do readers a disservice by sanding down the rough edges, painting it with bright colors, and putting a sheen of varnish on top. I’m not a child. I don’t need you to make everything appear perfect. Just let it be — real, honest, authentic.