Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stranger than Fiction

Have you ever truly wondered why genres and themes of books and movies that do well resonate with so many people. Themes like betrayal, shame, deception and lies? That's because these emtional experiences really do happen in real life. They happen more than any of us care to admit.

We've all heard that the media sensationalizes things and as writers so do we to an extent. We amplify the imagery - if you will - of a scene or set of scenes to hook and draw our readers in, but in order to be hooked in the first place there has to be an emotional connection that the reader can grab onto. That's where real life experiences play a valuable role for writers.

Throughout history people have always gravitated to the surreal, to the sensational, to the larger than life stories. Before radio and television, public executions were a big entertainment draw. It's no wonder that reality shows do so well. People just naturally like to gawk and look in on others lives and often their misfortunes.

Why? Well, sometimes it helps us deal with our own lives as we think - "Thank God that isn't me!" Or we feel less alone when we know that we're not the only ones experiencing such emotional stress and heartbreak. Sometimes it's just because we want to be entertained and have an experience we wouldn't have otherwise. Just think of all the special effect movies and theme parks that draw people in.

Just look at your own life and look at the lives of some of the writers who've made it "big" in terms selling a lot of books. When their personal stories are revealed through interviews and articles there's usually something intense about their background that allows them to communicate on a level that grabs their readers and says, "I know how you're feeling."

Some recent experiences in my own life made be think that while shame, deception and betrayal are great for story themes, plot and character development, they suck for actual realtionships and then I thought: No wonder readers connect to certain genres! Most of us have been there, done that, and worn the t-shirt! When we are experiencing these situations it does feel amplified, it is dramatic, it is earth-shattering.

So, as writers that's what we need to give our readers if we want to connect with them. A depth in our writing and in our voice that says we understand what you feel, what you think and what you need, because in the end, life really is stranger than fiction.

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