This Wouldn't Happen In The Real World

Much as I enjoy writing the Dave Slater Mystery Novels, I have many other ideas I would like to develop. One of those I would most like to take further is set in the sixties, and I have played around with this one over the last few months. Recently I sat down and created a rough, one page trailer for the book (which I believe could easily become a series) and wrote the first two or three chapters. I printed these out, and handed copies to my wife and a couple of friends, and asked the question; ‘What do you think?'

I should point out these friends are in my own 60+ age group (but then most of my readers are) so, as a test, I also handed a copy of the trailer to my step-daughter who's obviously much younger. Her immediate reaction was ‘I'll read it!' I have to admit this was a bit of a thrill for me, but the comment that I found most interesting was from one of my friends, who said, ‘this just wouldn't happen in the real world.'

It's an honest opinion, intended as constructive criticism, but is it a valid comment? I don't think it is, and here's why:

In my opinion it's very simple, there is fiction, and there is non-fiction (fiction based on fact is still fiction). Fiction is primarily intended to entertain (although it can inform, too) and non-fiction is primarily intended to inform (although it can also be very entertaining). You could argue this viewpoint is too simplistic, but the important thing to remember here is fiction has been created in the imagination of a writer. This isn't just my opinion. Here are two of many definitions I found online…

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Fiction – Literature in the form of prose, especially novels, that describes imaginary events and people.

Novel – A fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.

From Wikipedia:

Fiction is the classification for any story, or element of a story, derived from imagination and not based strictly on history or fact.

Fiction constitutes an act of creative invention, so that faithfulness to reality is not typically assumed; in other words, fiction is not expected to present only characters who are actual people or descriptions that are factually true.

I could have gathered a lot more of these definitions here, but already you can see the common thread in the descriptive words: imaginary, some degree of realism, derived from imagination, an act of creative invention….

I've had the odd review of my books where it's been suggested my detectives don't follow correct procedure. ‘They wouldn't be able to do this in the real world.' And, of course, these reviewers are quite right, my detectives wouldn't be able to do some of the things they do if they worked in the real world, but I believe anyone leaving a review like this is missing the point. My detectives, don't live in the real world – they live in a world that I created in my head, and in my world, they play by my rules, and sometimes, for the sake of the story, they follow my procedures.

Let's face it, if every work of fiction had to stick to the facts, whole genres would be eradicated overnight. How would Harry Potter have got that letter about Hogwarts? (Nobody ever said, ‘but in the real world owls don't deliver letters,' did they?) And what would become of Science Fiction, or Fantasy?

Now, I'm not for one minute suggesting a reader shouldn't be allowed an opinion, or that they shouldn't be allowed to express that opinion in a review. Bad reviews are a fact of life if you're going to write, and I've had my share (you soon learn you can't please all of the people all of the time!) But, next time you're reading a novel and you think, ‘this wouldn't happen in the real world,' just bear in mind, if you choose to read fiction you are choosing to enter a world created by the author, and that, by definition, doesn't have to be the real world.

If you have an opinion about this, please feel free to comment below.

Leave a Comment:

16 comments
Delayne says December 14, 2016

I read for the pleasure of reading and being somewhere else. Fiction for me is some reality with some embellishment. Sometimes reality doesn’t seem real either! I say go with what gives you pleasure to write! Just fitting into a box is kind of boring! I love your books!

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    Pete says December 23, 2016

    Hi Delayne,
    Thank you! You’re always there with an encouraging word for me – I really appreciate that. You’re certainly correct when you say reality sometimes doesn’t seem real, but I guess that’s what stops life being dull! And don’t worry, I can’t write unless I’m enjoying what I’m writing, so there won’t be any change there!

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Jim Marsh says December 23, 2016

I live in reality. Reading fiction is a chance to escaper reality and go into another world or dimension. It is for entertainment pure and simple. I am not a fan of reality shows. If I want a reality show, I will watch my life. I am also not a person who reads a fiction book and rushes to an atlas to see if the setting is actually there. It does not matter to me if the setting exists or not. It exists as it is in the book for my entertainment and that is sufficient for me.

I grew up reading science fiction, the Hardy Boys, and who done its. I enjoy taking trips in my mind to places where the author takes me. It is the pleasure of the journey through the unknown that makes it enjoyable.

So keep doing what you are doing so we can enjoy the adventurous journey together.

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    Pete says December 23, 2016

    Hi Jim,
    Don’t worry, I intend to keep on doing what I do, and I’m really pleased to hear you enjoy the journey!

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Marla Loffelmacher says December 23, 2016

I love reading your books! They keep me totally engrossed and entertained! Thank you!!!

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    Pete says December 23, 2016

    Hi Marla,
    If I keep you entertained that means I’m doing exactly what I set out to do! Thank you for reading my books.

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Sue says December 23, 2016

The whole point of fiction is that it is imaginary. Where would Barbara Cartland have been if it wasn’t?! As long as the characters are true and the writing good (the best aspects of your books)then readers are generally intelligent enough to make any leaps of faith required in the detail of a plot. You say most of your readership may be 60+, but a plot set in the 60s would be hugely popular these days when nostalgia seems to be the word.

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    Pete says December 23, 2016

    Hi Sue,
    Thank you for your kind words. I hope you’re right about the sixties – I know I always look back fondly at those times.

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Stan Holling says December 23, 2016

Fiction is in the eye of the reader. I read to be entertained, to be taken to places and meet people that are enteresting. Who’s actions and interests draw me in and hold my attention page after page. This is why I read your books. When I start reading “proper procedures” or “real life” seldom, if ever, get in the way of my enjoyment of a good story. I say “Dame the Reality” full speed ahead.
Your 60’s project does seem interesting. I look forward to hearing more about it..

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    Pete says December 23, 2016

    Hi Stan,
    You’re right – the story is much more important than proper procedures. Thanks for adding your comments.

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Jennie Gibbon says December 24, 2016

OK, so some people say that things wouldn’t happen in the real world. I would cite Animal Farm…. need I say anymore. DO NOT stop what you are doing. It is entertaining and engrossing. Rock on Mr. Ford.

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    Pete says December 28, 2016

    Hi Jennie,
    Thank you for your kind words and your continued support. I can’t remember the last time someone urged me to ‘rock on’, but I intend to do my best!

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Lillian Mckeag says December 27, 2016

Hi Pete, When I read I use the author’s words to create a picture in my head of the person and the place being written about, so it is of no importance to me whether I could physically go there or not, as I am going there with the story. I love reading fiction as it takes me out of the reality of day to day living – for just a little while there are no bills waiting to be paid, or no doctor’s appointment to be kept, there is just the delight of watching Dave and Norm trying to find out what happened and who did it! I was a teenager in the 60’s and a series set in that era would have great appeal, and not just to my generation. See what you think, but I am sure it would be popular. Can’t wait for next dose of Dave and Co. A very happy and healthy new year to you and yours. Best wishes Lillian.

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    Pete says December 28, 2016

    Hi Lillian,
    You’ve got it in one – the function of fiction is to provide an escape from reality! I, too, was a teenager in the sixties, and I still have vivid memories. I’m really looking forward to writing this series, and I hope it won’t disappoint. The next Dave and Norm book will be with you soon.

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Leigh McEwan says January 12, 2017

Hi Pete
I’m glad that you don’t get bogged down in procedure in your books – it can get really boring when an author does that – and I’m at a loss as to what value it really adds to the story.
As for the 60’s series – I wasn’t born till the 70’s – but I would be interested in reading something based in that time – as long as there wasn’t too many references here you ‘had to be there’ 🙂
Leigh

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Michelle Maynard says October 19, 2018

Thank you for putting it better than me, I will admit the ‘real world’ question used to bother me up until this year, it has taken me to my 40’s to realise ‘a novel is not the real world, it is happening in the authors world’ (well the world of the novel). It may sound obvious but as they say ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ anyway. The reason I read a novel is because I want to read fiction not reality, now a novel could be written where an alien speaks French to a giraffe and that is perfectly ok but if a fictional police officer uses the wrong form there is complaints?

Sure when watching tv and there is a car chase down a street where there are cafe tables and chairs and no one moves a muscle to get out of the way it does look a little silly, same when a serial killer kills 47 people and it does not make the news but for that moment it is possible!

So if I wanted to read what happens in real like I would read non fiction.

Now to off go topic for a moment, I am up to Slater and Norman five and I am amazed how writers can consistently write the characters the name way, so thank you for that, Slater and Norman come across the same in book 5 as they did in Book 1 and of course it is the same author but I do admire the consistent ‘voice’ the characters have (and with some other authors work I am reading)

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