Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
If I submitted a novel to a publisher with some of the stuff that has happened this week in the world (embassy killings, countries apologizing for making protesters angry enough to kill ambassadors, the riots catching people by surprise, political leaders who seem to be clueless) I’d be shot done for not being real enough and it being too surreal. I know because in the initial draft of Corruptor, when the media is questioning Rodney about the terrorists demands, they’re more focused on meeting the demands of the terrorists than actually being concerned for the hostages (and there were more than a few thousand). One editor literally sent an email to the publisher with this gem: “This scene is completely false. Journalists have an integrity about them which would preclude them from asking these questions.”
This was 2007, by the way.
Maybe I’m prophetic about stuff? I don’t know. I kept the scene, and the editor later quit after reading a section about how the heroine, Tori, is being gawked at by older men (she said that, as a mother of a teenage daughter, it bothered her that grown men would treat a 16 year old as a sexual object. I told my publisher that the editor was going to be in for a rude surprise when her daughter shows up with a 19 year old boyfriend and the words “Mom, we need to talk about something…”). I did tone down some of the gawking, however, because I really did not want a huge fight over something that is a bit of a throwaway scene (it doesn’t build up anything except make Tori slightly more vulnerable, which Gavrie does a better job of doing much later). Besides, I need the ammo for the inevitable fight near the end of the book – which, surprisingly, never occurred, as my new editor simply shrugged and must have muttered “Girl’s stupid, but a teen. Moving on…”.
But how… how do you differentiate what is too crazy for fiction? I mean, just how reasonable do we need to make our characters when people, as a whole, are entirely unreasonable beings?
Really, fiction is far more bland than what we read about on the news.
One thought on “That Blurry Line Between Fact and WTF?”
The saying, “Life just is — art has to convince” applies here.
I agree with you that what’s going on in the world is surreal. I don’t get it, either. The only person I’ve understood, from the get-go, what her stance on things with regards to the shooting at the American Embassy in Liby was and is happens to be Hillary R. Clinton; she’s the Secretary of State, she’s been very clear in what she’s said, and she’s looked quite Presidential — far more so than either major contender for the 2012 office, IMNSHO.
With “Corruptor,” I think your initial editor was off-base. You know when I read it I didn’t twig to any of that. (I’m a pretty good judge of such things, too.) That wasn’t implausible to me because I have much the same worldview, I suppose — who’d have thunk it? — that sort of ruthless pragmatism, I’d call it, where governments seem to do only the bare minimum required to keep the media off their back, while the media standards have fallen very short in recent years, possibly due to severe budgetary constraints (some of those writers and editors probably want to do a better job than they are, but have no time to do so).
As far as adults ogling well-developed teens (or even partially-developed teens), that’s been going on for centuries. I think adults, particularly those above age 25 or so, should leave teens under the age of 18 alone, strictly alone — but not all adults are going to follow this, nor can we expect them to do so. Anything else is a utopia, not anything we’ll see in contemporary society — and while I do like the idea of utopias in theory, in practice, no society yet has succeeded in constructing one.