Saturday, October 1, 2016

Walking the thin line between fantasy and reality by Renae Kaye

If you read enough of my books, you will find several themes running through them.  If you haven’t read my books – why not? **Blinks bemusedly**  Authors need to eat, you know?

Okay – joking aside… No, hang on.  That doesn’t work for me.  Because, well there are two threads that strongly resound in my writing.

#1: Humour.  Yeah.  That’s just me.  I make a joke out of everything.  Even when my writing is my attempt to be serious, it still comes through with humour.  I’ve seen authors say they can’t write humour, that it’s too difficult.  I have to look twice to see if they’re joking or not.  To me, humour is just a matter of opening my mouth.

Only joking.

Actually no.  That’s true.  I just imagine what I would say… then write it down and it works for me.

#2: Type of character.  I can’t deny it – not when it’s there in black and white.  Literally.  I seem to gravitate towards writing the blue-collar, hardworking, boy-next-door, average-Mr-Joe character.  It’s the type of character I like reading about because I can relate to them.  It therefore follows I like writing about them too.

Let me tell you about my characters.  They often work in manual labour, worry about things like money and mortgages, have families, don’t get breaks in life, and will probably be based on someone who lives in my street.  I enjoy thinking that someone out “there” (in the ether of the world beyond my house) can pick up my book and think, “Wow – that’s me.”  Or perhaps, “Wow – that’s my friend.”  I try to write my guys to be everyday types.  They’re not always fit or young or rich or good looking.  They have faults – wow, do some of them have faults and character flaws.  Sometimes they’re not flaws we like, but we all seem to know of someone who does that.

I like my characters to be realistic.  But at the same time, we all need to inject a bit of fantasy into our characters because… well, it’s fiction after all.

Take for example, The Blinding Light.  I didn’t realise it during writing the story, but I have a lot of reviews that call it a “Cinderella story.”  I guess it is – poor, down on his luck guy who is “saved” by a rich, handsome dude he goes to clean for.  Apart from the fact the prince-character is blind and can be abrupt.  But it’s not really something that happens all the time (I haven’t taken a straw-poll, but I’m pretty sure there aren’t a lot of gay, blind, rich men in Perth without friends or family in desperate need of a housekeeper.)

So, sometimes fantasy is injected in order to make a story, and to make it interesting.  I find it hard sometimes to keep the realism vs fantasy in line.  A reader recently commented to me about how my characters in their 20s have all found a way to have their own house.  In Perth we have a housing shortage which is jacking the housing prices up so high that the younger generation is pushed out of the market.  It’s created a scenario where the average age of leaving home is now around 27.  My character of Liam from Loving Jay – who was 24 – had his own apartment.  Okay, granted it was a small apartment that costs around $250k (or about 4.5 times the salary he probably earns) and he did say he had a nice deposit due to the compensation payment he received, but not very many 24-year-olds could do that.  I’m working on my characters maybe being a bit more realistic in this regard in the coming books.

As I said – it’s what I like to read and therefore gravitate towards the realistic characters when I also write.  If the blurb on the back of a book says something about, “Handsome billionaire Robert Stevens spots unattractive, weedy Justin Martinez on the street and falls instantly in love…” I usually put the book down again.  It’s just not my thing.  I’m happy if others read and write it, and I make no judgements.  Just the same as any other sub-genre.  I respect your choice, please respect mine.  I won’t judge you for your m-preg/BDSM/GFY/MMM/shifter/vampire/fairy/cowboy/hockey/trying-to-think-of-other-sub-genres-that-are-regularly-dissed reading, if you don’t judge me when I tell you I have a soft spot for time-travel-portal fiction and long-haired-fierce-but-kind Vikings.

There is, however, a responsibility that authors should carry to make their “realistic” characters realistic.  I’ll tell you why I feel this way.  This week I picked up a book in the library that sounded interesting.  MF, but hey – libraries rarely carry anything else.  The basic story is she’s a smart-mouth secretary who has trouble holding down a job, and he’s a newly-famous band member who is having trouble with the fame and is drinking too much.  She’s hired to keep him in check.  Sounds good.  Not sure how many famous band members are hanging around the place, but that’s the fantasy element there.

So I started reading, and there on page three was the bit I hung my head at.  The female character narrator describes her physical body as nothing special – big boobs, small waist, large hips.


So in other words she’s Kim Kardashian or basically the exact curvy body.  So in other words the body every woman wants.  So in other words not plain or normal?  It’s the reality vs fantasy aspect again.  I understand that an author will struggle to sell a book to the audience of an overweight heroine without classing it into the BBW genre.  But please don’t sell to women who are already struggling with their body issues that big boobs, small waist and large hips are “nothing special.”  Where are all the stories with the heroines with flat chests and large hips?  What about the skinny heroines who try desperately to put on weight?  Where are the large wobbly thigh women and those with skin problems?  Where are those with crooked teeth, disabilities or weight problems?

I at least try to make my characters to be less-than-perfect.  In my last release, Don’t Twunk With My Heart, Tate had body issues which will probably never resolve in his life time.  Just like an alcoholic can never have just one drink and be satisfied, I’m sure Tate will need to be conscious for the rest of his life of not trying to diet to an unachievable thin.

Coming in November is the next instalment of my Loving You series – The Straight Boyfriend.  Once again I’ve attempted to make my guy-next-door characters with traits you find in yourself and in friends.  Vinnie is small and skinny… all over, if you get what I mean.  He doesn’t really have a lot to boast about.  He’s self-conscious and tries to not worry about it too much.  But that first time is always a what-if scenario.  Aaron on the other hand was blessed with the tall genes.  He’s starting to have to watch his weight or else he’s going to get flabby.  We don’t have perfect guys in this book.  We just have two guys fumbling their way through a relationship and learning about themselves in life.

Two very real guys, one not-so-real scenario.  It’s a fine line.  One an author walks all the time and their success really depends on the reader.  My success will be up to you – the reader.

To the MF author and her big boobs, small waist, big hips heroine?  I would’ve loved to have seen the average breasts, not-so-small waist, big hips character.  But I’ll read on and see if she redeems herself.  Maybe she has a big character flaw like she gets angry at little grannies in the supermarket who don’t know the meaning of “hurry” and I can really begin to like her.  Maybe she doesn’t like dogs.  I don’t know.  I’ll have to read on.

To my loyal readers who love my blue-collar, Mr Average, not-so-perfect characters?  Thank you for reading.  And The Straight Boyfriend will be out at the end of November.

How to contact Renae:
Twitter:  @renaekkaye

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