Don’t spend months or years creating a masterpiece only to have it ill-received by readers. Your prose are beautiful, so how exactly are you missing the mark?
You can write something absolutely breathtaking, and readers can appreciate it. But the writing that readers rave about, and what really impresses them, is writing that helps them realize something about themselves, or validates something about themselves. In short, writing is more greatly appreciated when readers can RELATE.
Mundane is Real, not Boring
I’ll start off with poetry. There is so much about poetry that is just expressing the experience of the everyday. The feeling of the wind when you step out of the house. The chill of the snow through your rain boots. The light tingle of the brush of a first kiss. Poetry is about making the everyday mundane magical, not boring.
Why should fiction be any different?
It shouldn’t. See the thing is, when you leave out too much of the mundane in your fiction, it becomes hard to relate to, and therefore (worst case scenario) laughable and unrealistic. Readers have a hard time buying into the story because the lack of mundane and relatable content makes them feel distant from your characters and world. Even worse, it can actually create plot holes!
For instance, I’m sorry if this thought grosses you out fellas, but if Edward Cullen was having such a hard time even being around Bella on a normal day, how did he not tear her throat out whenever she was on her period? Or is Jasper was new to this whole vegetarian diet thing, why on earth would he attend and spend all his days in a high school filled with hundreds of menstruating girls? Sorry Twihards, but I’m not buying it! Honestly all those little normal everyday things that we have to deal with, but characters so rarely do, make some books fall flat.
I get that it is a fantasy, which is supposed to be fun, but if I keep tripping over all the reminders of how unrealistic it is, I won’t enjoy the story (as much), I won’t truly invest in it mentally and emotionally (which is why I read fiction), and I won’t suggest it to friends. As a reader, I personally like to experience things I can relate to in the story.
It Doesn’t Have to be Your Whole Plot
I’m not saying you can’t have vampires or werewolves or “You’re a wizard Harry”, but I think one thing that sets Harry Potter apart in comparison to Twilight, is it isn’t completely fantastical. The characters in Harry Potter are flawed, they are irritable, they bicker, get annoyed, they get hungry, they take baths, they are self-conscious. They are not all liked all the time, and they worry about it! For the most part, their lives are normal. They have to wake up, not be late for class, do their homework, get detention…
Another thing that I think makes Harry Potter and great YA book is that the adults aren’t completely absent. There are adults in the book that interact with the younger characters. The adults in the series aren’t painted as complete idiots preventing the fun but are role models that the younger characters look up to, admire, and go to for guidance and help.
It is the little natural conversations, that take place during a scene (not necessarily the focus of the scene) that make it that much more realistic. Pull your readers in, let them relate to the situations and characters. When you paint the picture and draw them in, they will be much more invested in what happens next.
It’s Not One and Done
If you have a character brush their teeth in chapter one, that’s great. But the reminders of real life and relatable content need to be strung throughout the journey.
Are your characters leaving to go on an epic adventure? Have them stop and question how many pairs of clean underwear to pack! It will make your readers laugh, but also buy into the character and the story, because how many would you pack? Let’s be real, I’d stop and question if I were the one going on the journey!
Has it been three chapters since you mentioned your character ate something? Unless the character is struggling with anorexia, have them snack on something while they talk to someone else. It doesn’t have to be the focus of the scene, but real people eat.
Do Readers Really Notice This Stuff?
They may not be able to put their finger on it, as I just did. But some of them can. I’m not trying to brag here, but I was actually surprised to see this mentioned in a review of my book on Amazon! That’s when I figured it was probably worth talking to other writer’s about!
“I’m one of those weirdos who gets caught up on little details like “when does Jack Bauer ever eat or sleep?” or “didn’t Frodo need to brush his teeth, like ever?” And Brandy has thankfully covered so many realistic, intricate, amazing details of the story that it is breathtakingly real. The characters remember to pack clothes, they brush their teeth, they get hungry, they worry about when they last showered, or about their stinky feet. I loved being able to relate to these things and have them woven to tell a complete story without making you roll your eyes at the omission. I know it seems silly, but when you read it, you will see that it adds a whole depth to the story without taking away from the amazing storyline and characters.”
“There is more substance to it than other YA books which usually rely on unrealistic, gushy romance.”
Readers read to escape reality, but if you miss the mark and deliver a story that is completely unrelatable, then the reader can’t escape, in fact, they are just drawing up the contrast between the fantasy life of your characters, and the boring mundane life they are stuck in. That isn’t fun at all!
And if those weren’t convincing:
“Her descriptions throughout the book draw you in and you literally feel that you are there with the characters, experiencing what they are going through! The places they are visiting are so detailed, you can visualize it clear as day. You truly are transported into this world and the people, places, and things are right at your finger tips.”
So don’t deprive your readers the opportunity to experience your world the way that you do, all the gritty little details go by in a flash, and really help to paint the full picture!
If you remember nothing else from this post, carry this mantra with you into your next writing project “Mundane Matters!”
Thanks for reading, and happy writing!