Realism is overrated.
I’d had conversations that go like this:
Person making recommendations: “You should watch/listen to/read This Thing I Love.”
Me: “Yeah? I’ve heard it’s good, but I’ve also heard it’s sad and violent and all the people you like best end up dying in horrific, unexpected ways.”
Person: “Well, yes, but that’s real. It’s just like Real Life.”
Me: “I . . . think I have enough Real Life in my real life already, thanks.”
I don’t know if this is true elsewhere, but in my experience, “realism” and the phrase “like real life” are generally used to mean, “sad and painful,” “covered in dirt and blood,” “agonizing,” and “SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!!! Hahahaha – jk. You’re dead now.”
I hate that. I hate the idea that reality has to be awful. That death and violence and grief is more real than life and and love and laughter.
The older I get – and the more I watch things/read things – the more I’ve come to value stories characterized by joy. By fun. By hope.
When I was elevenish, I set out to write a long book about a girl and her best friend and a horse. It was an epic-fantasy-journey-type story and I determined very early on that the best friend was going to die. It would be very emotional and tragic and real.
I “tsk, tsk” at 11-year-old me. If I had ever finished that story, I wouldn’t have wanted to read it: too depressing. I was writing to make myself cry. As if I didn’t (and don’t) already spend enough time feeling sad.
I don’t write like that anymore. Now, I write to make me smile. Laugh. Hope.
“You are going to live,” Writer-Me says. “You’re going to live, and you’re going to save the people you care about, and you’re going to grow old, and change the world for the better. I’m not sure how, but that’s another story. Well, it’s not another story; it’s this story, actually, but – um, later. That’s later in the story. Yeah.”
This kind of writing isn’t for everyone. Stories that don’t leave you smiling and hoping and joyful aren’t bad. But they’re not for me. At least, they’re very rarely for me.
But that’s me. Not you. Happy writing. Or, not-happy writing, if that’s your thing.