Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Real or Not Real?

I’m going to be mentioning The Hunger Games in this post, so the quote (which those of you who have read Mockingjay will recognise) seemed suitable. 

In one of my university seminars today, we began to discuss the idea of whether contemporary books have started to become less ‘real’. Obviously, many books were mentioned, such as The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones and Twilight, to name a view. Fantasy, paranormal and dystopia have become huge genres in recent years, and in many respects it seems like we as a culture are moving further and further away from reality.

Let’s look at some aspects of the aforementioned books. An arena where children fight to the death? A place where winter can last years with dragons? Vampires? None of these things are exactly real. They all look at an exaggerated reality, one which can look very distorted from ours.

But to me, these books are still ‘real’. One of the most important things for me when I’m reading is whether I can relate to the characters. The setting might be wildly different from anything I know, and the society they live in might seem like another world, but there will always be aspects I can relate to and things I feel are ‘real’ to me. 

Everything we write has aspects of our reality. I don’t think we can ever really separate ourselves from the world we know, as much as we may try to distance ourselves from it in fiction. We don’t know any different than our own reality, after all. So whilst we might not be reading as many books about Average Joe anymore, I don’t think this makes what we are reading any less ‘real’. Books will always be ‘real’ in some respect, even when they may not seem very real at all. 

What do you think? Do you think we are distancing ourselves from realism in fiction?


  1. I don't think we're 'distancing' ourselves from reality in fiction. Rather, I think we're bringing ourselves closer to reality by portraying it in that slightly distorted, exaggerated way. While we are still able to relate to overlying themes, issues, and relate to the character and situations they find themselves in - to an extent - the fact that fiction these days isn't always a replica of our reality allows us to view it more objectively, while stories that mimic our reality are usually viewed more subjectively.

    Anyway, these exaggerated and distorted realities we find in fantasy and dystopian stories is way more entertaining that real life :)

    I can't wait to start University at the start of next month, so that I can share things I learn in my classes! :D

    And I think the Mockingjay quote was quite appropriate... I actually really liked the 'Real or not real' game.

  2. "Fantasy, paranormal and dystopia have become huge genres in recent years, and in many respects it seems like we as a culture are moving further and further away from reality."

    And I say we're better for it. The situations therein may not be realistic, but that's part of the point, I think; fantasy and the like put characters in potentially-insane situations, and seeing a story's heroes react and respond is a reward in itself.

    Fiction = endless possibilities. The moment you start to limit yourself is the moment you start to fail.

  3. Yes & No, but really I think many dystopian books will help our children be better people when they grow up.
    let me tell you something...when I first read the hunger games I was like "Wah? How could Suzanne -who lives in the USA- know about what is going on here with me in Africa?!" you can never imagine how much I related to the things her heroine was going through, the government treatment of people...in so many ways the same.
    So although books about reality are becoming lesser, these wonderful Dystopean worlds are doing a great job replacing them and frankly even if it was on a smaller scale I don't that kids thrown in an arena to fight each other is not taking place already in some parts of the world, we all should know by now that in some countries children are turned into soldiers with true guns, so yea it's not THAT weird after all.