Look, I don’t know about you, but one of the main reasons why I love reading so much, especially fantasy and dystopian novels, is because reading allows me to escape the harsh reality of the real world. The world full of stress, work, homework, etc. Reading provides a nice break from all of that fun stuff. I don’t read nonfiction for fun (and to escape), so I don’t usually mind when authors take some liberty and fudging around some facts so that they’ll fit the story better. But how much liberty can an author take before the book becomes too much to deal with?
It’s pretty obvious fiction books are full of fiction. That being said, I do think they still require a certain amount of realism. Even fantasy and sci-fi books need to be somewhat realistic. You’re probably going “WHAT? Emz, you’ve lost your freaking mind!” If I could roll my eyes online, I would. Yes, I know they are fiction. Yes, I know they take place in make-believe worlds. Yes, I know that there really should be anything but a reflection of our world. But the truth is, I still think they need to keep some of the concepts found on our Earth, in this time in history, to be enjoyable.
One of the best ways to alienate readers is to write a story no one can relate to. Even if the characters are not human, do not live our world as we know it, and/or don’t live in our time period, they still have to have humanlike qualities. Human emotions, expressions, behavior, motives. Something that we readers and read and identify with, or at least understand. Something that allows the content of the book to be somewhat familiar, even if the subject is foreign.
But beyond characters, books, especially retellings and adaptations, can only take a few liberties before I can no longer force myself to keep reading it. I get that sometimes authors retell myths in a way so the story they have concocted makes more sense. For example, in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Athena has demigod children despite being a maiden goddess. Riordan does explain how Athena was able to stir spawn without technically breaking her oath, but it does stray from the myths. Annabeth and Athena’s other “children” play an important role in the series and Uncle Rick’s version does make sense (in a way).
But sometimes that isn’t the case. For example, if Riordan just said Athena slept with the men she liked and got preggo and had children (you know, not a brain child, but one that involves reproductive organs), then that would have been a stretch. And I, a lover (and nerd) of Greek mythology would have said “no no” and drop the book in a pool of water so deep, that even Percy, with his powers, wouldn’t be able to save.
So in conclusion, I think it’s fine when authors take some realistic liberties in their novels. They are writing works of fiction so it’s totally fine if some facts are skewed. Still, the books they write do have to maintain a certain level of realism, no matter what genre they belong to or else the book loses some of its charm.
What do you think?
How realistic do books have to be?