Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fifty Shades of Fantasy

Wasn't that a catchy title? I wanted to title this post "Realistic Fantasy" but simply could not resist the temptation of the title above.

Truth is, I recently succumbed to all the hype over the E.L. James trilogy and to begin reading it for myself. About half-way through the first book, something struck me as profound--although the story uses a realistic backdrop, the situation is just far enough beyond reality to qualify as fantastic fiction.

I don't mean 'fantastic' as in 'great' (I'm sorry, but the quality certainly is not great) rather, I mean 'fantastic' as in beyond the realm of the realistic. That is, in fact, what attracts most readers to fiction.

When the word 'fantastic' is mentioned, I feel we've ventured into my territory. I would consider many of my stories in the realm of the fantastic, but at a polar opposite to stories such as FSoG.

Let me splain.

The premise of my stories are based in the fantastic. I like to take the paranormal existence of my characters and make them believable by grounding them in the real world. Realistic fiction takes normal (human) characters and attempts to bring their actions into the realm of the fantastic.

So, in a sense, many paranormal and fantasy stories must concentrate more on the realistic in order to help the reader suspend their inherent disbelief of the subject matter. I find this aspect of paranormal stories fascinating.

For instance, in my latest novel, Lexi's Run, my main character, Alexis, is a shape shifting werewolf living among an entire community of shape shifting werewolves.

How could I make her seem real?

First, I made sure that her community lives in secret among mere mortals. See, now I bet you're already thinking, "Yeah, this could be happening right now. In fact, this might explain the weird behaviour I've witnessed in my neighbor, Joannie."

Second, I made sure that Alexis lived as much of a normal human life as I could outside of her secret existence. She grew up in the small North Georgia town of Ellijay, Georgia, nestled at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. He parents took her to all the local fairs, she attended college in Atlanta, and did all the things that a normal human would do. She just did them through the filter of werewolf royalty.

This way the reader gets to know Alexis as a person, and then is okay when I throw in that extra little fact that she just happens to be a shape shifting werewolf.

This is one of the reasons I like reading paranormal romance, and I'm hoping it is the reason other enjoy the genre as well.

You see, when one is reading a paranormal story a jumping off point must be provided, otherwise the story may be too unbelievable from the start. This is in direct contrast to a story such as FSoG where normal characters do things that, in real life, one might consider out of the ordinary. But that, in itself is a kind of fantasy. And isn't that what reading is all about? It is this ability to experience things as if we are the main character doing things we would never personally do.

But I still like it best when I can experience these things through the eyes of a demon, faerie, werewolf, or dare I say ... even a vampire.