The reality of fiction is that it isn’t real. Ha. But how do you write something fictional that seems real enough people can identify with it and still make it fictional? That, my friends, is the trick.
One of my favorite writers to listen to, David Morrell, always says to write from your emotions. Emotions are what connect a story to the reader. And he is sooooo right.
No one identifies with Harry Potter because he’s a wizard and throws his cousin in a snake pen or fights off Voldemort. We identify with him because he’s been excluded from a normal life, he’s been beat down, put aside, kicked around, and had the rug pulled out from under him multiple times before he’s even a teenager … and then he overcomes it all.
In other words, we FEEL something for him. We identify with his emotional state. His perseverance makes us feel like we can keep going as well.
As a writer the things our characters do, the action bits in the story, are the gears that keep the story moving forward. They go to work, talk to people, drive a car, or whatever but, that’s not the whole story. It’s reality that a reader can identify with, yes, but it will never make anyone care.
Ultimately, we want to know what all those gears are connected to. Is it the inside of a giant clock ticking off the minutes of someone’s existence? Or the mechanics of a giant monster ready to devour the world? What is the driving story line, in other words. Is it a coming of age story? A hero conquers the world? Good versus evil? Overcoming adversity? Whatever it is, it gives the characters purpose and a reason to do what they do … but it still won’t make a reader care.
In between all the gears we need some oil to keep them running smoothly. Other characters that join in the journey serve this purpose. They lend a hand to the MC to get him from point A to point X. Even when they get in the way or try to stop a character moving forward, the supporting characters keep the gears moving. But once again, it’s not what makes the reader feel something.
The very thing that makes your story fiction, is the thing that will make your reader care. It must be bigger, better, sadder, happier, grittier, easier, etc than anything we experience in real life before it will grab the readers emotions and propel them to give a damn.
If Harry Potter lived in the real world, some social worker would have shown up and insisted he be given a bedroom or removed him from the home. If he’d locked his cousin in a snake pen at the zoo, he would have been sent to a psych ward in a hospital. Either action would have ended the story. Instead he sits in his cabinet under the stairs and dreams of a place to call his own. He casts a spell on his cousin and is whisked away to a life of magic.
The magic of fiction whisks the reader into another world where dreams and fantasies outweigh reality. We care because to do otherwise is unthinkable.