Should Fiction Keep It Real?

I planned to write about the balance between a writer’s life and their inner world, but this piece on the BBC website caught my eye and, frankly, it seemed more interesting to explore than to write about what I know best (me).

It’s well worth reading in full, but in essence author and screenwriter Daisy Goodwin questions whether having lots of strong female roles in prime time series, such as The Bodyguard and Killing Eve, gives girls and young woman false expectations of life even as it inspires them. Daisy refers to ‘airbrushing reality’, which begs the question: What purpose does fiction best serve?

As a writer, I can see both sides here. In my Thomas Bladen novels, although the focus is primarily on Thomas and Karl at work, and Thomas and Miranda after hours, I have written in a number of what I hope are strong female roles. This isn’t tokenism. Throughout my working life, most of my managers have been women.

In addition, I think that writing different characters from the author’s direct experience adds complexity and interest. Television though (and cinema) is more immediate, more visual, more in-your-face because the action all takes place in front of you, rather than inside your own head.

A glance through the news headlines will tell you that sexism and racism are still formidable barriers to greater social change (and classism / social mobility is as well). How accurately should they be portrayed?

I think that fiction isn’t reportage – it can mirror reality or it can diverge from it. For me, that’s driven by the story. And yes, of course mystories are an expression of my experience, my projections and imagination (which again are inevitably informed by my experience).

Another point worth considering is that drama in fiction, television and cinema is usually about exception. The tension or conflict comes from something out of the ordinary, whether that’s an event or a realisation (which is really an inner event), and the consequences that follow.

Pixar’s storytelling structure is well known and here’s a great description of it:

In the end, even if it’s fiction for now, I want to see diversity in roles and characters. Whatever the present situation, the future is unwritten. And fiction can also inspire people to turn fiction into reality.

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