Welcome back to The Crazy Cat Editor. Today we tackle the topic of how to make your words real. Trust me, it’s not as difficult as you think.
While writing itself may take time, putting effort into making your writing vivid and realistic just takes descriptive skills and an active imagination. Let’s get started.
One of the key aspects of any good story is the ability to portray itself as realistic and accurate, even if that story is fiction.
So, what does it mean, exactly, to portray a story as realistic and accurate? What does it take to capture audiences and convince them that your story and characters are relatable?
Much of the time when a reader complains about a book being unrealistic, it’s really because it lacked a consistent and believable chain of events. Even if your story is a fiction fantasy, your readers are quick to realize the rules that govern the world you have created.
They will learn the mannerisms and personalities of your characters and begin to craft expectations for them.
In exchange they expect you, as the writer, to offer true attention to detail in order to make sure these qualities of both your world and your characters stay consistent.
If you show that a character is evil and cruel, and then have them commit an act of kindness for no established reason, you create confusion for your readers.
If you say something is so, and then later contradict yourself, you betray the trust of your reader.
A huge problem in realism of a story comes when it’s time to show realistic human emotions and consequences. For example, let’s say your character’s dog has just been brutalized and murdered. How would your character react? If they’re quick to bounce back and seem to move on within a few days, that’s going to offend and confuse your readers.
Real tragedies can affect people for the duration of their lives. If you introduce a tragedy in your novel, you must make sure that it’s addressed or else you risk losing readers’ interest.
Making dialogue realistic can be a tough mountain to climb, but it’s doable. First and foremost, you want to make sure you cut down on wordiness. If you present a wall of text with no breaks, it may push your readers to shut the book and move on.
Dialogue should be free-flowing and straight to the point. Unnecessary details distract from the story. Compressing dialogue makes your words more crisp and realistic.
You should also delete meaningless words from your writing to keep your story from sounding like a ramble of unimportant noise. Use phrases like “um,” “hey,” and “well” sparingly. Fragments are also good in a steep dialogue to keep it going without droning on with full sentences.
Real people don’t always talk in full sentences and doing so in your writing might make it too stiff and formal to keep your audience engaged. Contractions also help to keep writing short and to the point, but don’t use them too often.
No, this section isn’t here to kick dirt in the face of fantasy/sci-fi writers. A rock-solid setting makes a huge difference in the quality of your story. You should take the time to get to know your setting as well as you would any city you live in.
Including the typical weather, local customs, and what your character does for a living are all good ways to start setting a foundation.
What are some killer details about your setting that might make it jump out the page?
Is there a crisp, orange-turned oak tree casting a grisly shadow across your character’s house? Perhaps a haunted mansion down the street that frightens trick-or-treaters that houses a wicked old hag.
Maybe the plants in your dystopian fantasy grab you when you walk by, or the sun caresses you like a lover on the plains of such-and-such planet. You get the picture.
Creating a detailed atmosphere really captures your audience and keeps them engaged with your story. The setting is a character itself.