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.