Bookish Chat : But isn’t it fiction?

June 17, 2015 Bookish chat 37

So it seems like the longest time since I had bookish discussion around here and I have no clue why that is.  I love to chat about all things literary and whenever I’ve had a discussion in the past, it has generated some great comments that really got me thinking.  So basically what I’m saying (in a long-winded kind of way!) is that discussions are back on the menu at Between My Lines and hopefully this will be the first in a long series of them.

Bookish Chat


One of my biggest complaints when reading a book is that X isn’t realistic or that Y would never happen in real life.  But invariably when I mention that to my husband or a friend, they will say but yes isn’t it fiction?  What about poetic licence?  Can’t you just go with the flow?  Can’t you stop being so critical? And the answer is no, I can’t!

I need my fiction to be grounded in reality or else I’m so busy picking holes in the plot that I lose interest in actually following the plot.  In a fantasy book, I need the world-building to make sense, in a dystopia I need to understand why society developed that way, in a contemporary YA I need the characters to talk like people of that age should.  You get the picture.  I need to believe in the possibility of what I’m reading before I can allow myself to get swept away.

When things don’t add up or characters are one-dimensional or are unrealistically perfect; I can’t make myself believe.  Of course I don’t need books to imitate real life exactly, that would be boring and I love creative spins but as long as it’s grounded in events that logically make sense.

For example I’m reading a book at the moment (Awake) and the theme is that the main character can’t remember anything from before the age of 4 and this is causing huge problems for her.  And it’s annoying me no end.  Most people can’t remember before the age of 4!  I can’t and I never think twice about it.  So I don’t buy that it’s this huge deal.  Now if the age was moved to 8, that would feel a lot more realistic and would ring alarm bells and make me feel a lot more empathy for the character.  Instead I’m just snarling inside every time it is mentioned.

I think that book blogging has made a much more critical reader than I used to be.  Before I used to accept things in books at face value but now I challenge them all the time as I read them.  And I like that, I like that I’m evolving as a reader as I enjoy that books make me think outside the box and use the logical side of my brain.  But that means I’m also far more likely to jump on inconsistencies and think through sequences in books to see if they make sense.

And when they don’t, it grates on me!  And it doesn’t just apply to realistic fiction, it applies to all fiction for me.  I need things to be logical or someway believable.  I find it hard to suspend disbelief and follow blindly along.  Surely I’m not alone in this?


Talk to Trish : Do you care if a book is realistic or not?  Does it take from your enjoyment of the book?


Never miss a bookish post! Plus you get a free download - Note to Book - to document your own bookish thoughts.

Signup now and receive blog posts by email.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

37 Responses to “Bookish Chat : But isn’t it fiction?”

    • trish

      Exactly when the basics make sense then I can allow myself to drift into the book. But if I’m too busy thinking what the hell then that’s just distracting.

  1. Joséphine @ Word Revel

    Poetic license… Lol. It depends the genre, really. Anything goes in fantasy. But if it’s a contemporary novel, then it should be rooted in reality, I feel. Personally, I can remember some things from before I was 4 but it’s not a pivotal age yet where not remembering would seriously impact the rest of one’s life, so I get why it’s bothering you so much. I get agitated as well at the littlest things that derail the logic of reality in contemporary fiction.
    Joséphine @ Word Revel recently posted…Mise-en-scène #20: Fear

    • trish

      I agree that it’s often the little things that can be a big distraction and when you get bothered by those, it can really take you out of the book.

  2. Greg

    I feel the same way. I just read a book that was like that- it was a seque to a book I liked, but the situations were so out there for the age of the protagonists that I wasn’t buying it. It took me out of it because it didn’t pass the realism test. I was actually surprised by my reaction! I had to tell mysef just to go with it, but still… it was fine book otherwise! 🙂
    Greg recently posted…The Deep End

    • trish

      I know, no matter what the genre, that realism test is important to me. I do have to make myself go with the flow and get over it. And no matter how good the book is apart from that, it will niggle me a bit.

    • trish

      Oopphhs, hope you end up liking Awake a lot more than I did. A lot of this discussion post was inspired by things in that book that annoyed me :O

  3. Red Iza

    Just like you, I need realistic, believable characters/worldbuilding, or else I simply can’t relate to said characters/story. And the more I read, the more critical I grow. I’m reformating the old posts from Blogspot that I merged into WordPress, and as I’m doing it, I’m noticing several books that if I read the books nowadays, I would rate lower. He he, experience ! When a trope, a type of character is new, it’s all shiny. But as I read more and more of the same stories with the same characters, I find it terribly annoying ! And I can’t stand stupid characters reactions any more 🙂
    Red Iza recently posted…Review / David Levithan : Every day

    • trish

      I know I’m exactly the same, I see some of my earlier ratings and I cringe! I know I would be a lot harsher on them nowadays. And I think it’s just the more books I review, the keener my eye for observation. And like you say the more of a genre you read, the more you have to compare it with and that alone raises the standards. Great point!

  4. Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog

    I think it depends for me. If it is supposed to be a more realistic book than I get annoyed when it goes off the rails or stuff doesn’t ring true at all. If it fantasy (which I don’t read a ton of really) or even a thriller (I give it more leeway to be exciting) then I can go with it. Great discussion!
    Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog recently posted…Review ~ Stay With Me

    • trish

      I’m a bit of a newbie at fantasy but I’m fast becoming a big fan of the genre and I love world building that seems logical to me. if it doesn’t it can halt my progress with the book as I’m too busy asking all the questions and getting frustrated!
      I like my thrillers to be exciting too! And I’m probably a bit glad if they aren’t overly realistic as that would be scary :O

  5. Rita @ View From My Home

    Good discussion! I totally get your point. Characters behaving badly (or, lol, out of the expected way)grate on me. Yes it’s fiction, but if for example, you are writing a suspense which has realistic police work and realistic description of the MC’s job, why would you just throw in something that doesn’t ring true? The author needs to decide beforehand if they are writing realistic fiction or just something “out there”, and if that is the case, why make the other 80-90% of the plot be so realistic?

    In fantasy, some people feel you should suspend all belief and go with the flow. However, I stumbled across an essay that someone wrote about online (apologies for not remembering the writer’s name) that said …totally paraphrased here… “wait a minute, even in fantasy I want the magic system to make sense, I want some explanation of why their world is built in this particular fashion”.

    Are we expecting too much from our authors? We all read so many, many books that it must make us harsher critics of stories. Is the fault with us or with the authors, or just that sometimes what seems like a good book beforehand will not necessarily be a match made in heaven??

    Thanks, Trish, and keep the discussions coming!
    Rita @ View From My Home recently posted…Mellow Mondays

    • trish

      That essay that you quoted sums up my feels exactly, I need the world building to feel sound and when it’s off, I spend too much time reflecting on that.
      As for your next question about are we expecting too much? Well that’s a great one. I think the issue is that some authors set the bar so high (I’m thinking of JK and the world she built for us in the Harry Potter series) that our expectations are maybe unrealistic. But I do think that authors should make every effort to make their world building seem effortless and the reality test is one way of checking that.
      I think being a critical reader is a good trait though. I like to think about new ideas and to reflect further on books and not all critical analysis is negative, it’s just a way of debating the issues further. I think that’s fun! *nerd alert*

  6. kimbacaffeinate

    For me it depends. For example insta-love sometimes I feel the chemistry and am perfectly willing to swallow the little blue pill and accept that theirs is a forever, soulmate kind of love. Fantasy, UF, paranormal and dystopian I need to understand the world. Great discussion!
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…The Best Medicine by Elizabeth Hayley

    • trish

      I hate insta-love but have to admit that some of my favourite romance books feature it. So I obviously can and do get over it! But for fantasy, dystopia, etc, if the world is flawed then it’s just hard to get on board with the plot, I’m so with you on that one.

  7. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    Not remembering anything before the age of 4 doesn’t seem like too much of an issue. At best I just remember flashes of it and it doesn’t really bother me either. I’m kind of back and forth about fiction being realistic. I don’t like when books rely to much on coincidences or giant leaps in logic that are miraculously accurate. At the same time I don’t like characters behaving like children or getting caught up on small details even when it is realistic. I guess I like modified reality!
    Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library recently posted…The Gentle Art of Murder – Review

    • trish

      I think the age thing bothered me a lot as some people do remember and some don’t and either way it’s not a big deal. It’s definitely not a big flashing light screaming that you are blocking out bad memories and as the book kept harping back to that, it annoyed me. A lot.

      Modified reality sounds good to me. I just need the basics right and then I’m all for flights of fancy as long as they are someway feasible.

  8. Rachel

    I AGREE SO MUCH! Yes, it’s fiction, which means it can take some liberties, but I need/love for there to be a sense of realism – for things to get ugly, for things to sometimes not work out – this is why I love what I call “issues” fiction. Those books, YA or Adult, that delve into actual things that happen in real life. Like cheating, mental illness, family feuds etc. I’ve never considered it in Fantasy or Dystopia before, but the more I think about it, I need those to be… logical. Maybe not realistic, because Fae and Dragons, but I need it to make sense in that world! Great topic, Trish!
    Rachel recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday – My Summer TBR List 2015

    • trish

      Logical is probably a much better word as that is really what I’m trying to get at. The world may not be realistic but things do need to make sense within the world. Exactly.
      And I’m all for those issue books too, they make me consider viewpoints that I might not have thought about before. Life isn’t rose-tinted and books shouldn’t be either.

  9. Daniela

    Hi know exactly what you mean Trish! Tomorrow I’m posting a 4.8 star review for “Life as we knew it” a 100% Sci/fi book. I think the book is a masterpiece in every sense. Wanted so badly to give it a 5 star rating! But couldn’t come around to do it because the entire book is based on an event that is just not feasible scientifically speaking. Otherwise perfect!
    and yes… I didn’t use to be this picky before I was a reviewer lol

    Great post! 🙂
    Daniela recently posted…Blogging Tip: How to Write a Book Review Part III, Keeping it constructive

    • trish

      Well I’m glad you still loved despite that fatal flaw! And I think you’ve just proved yet again to me that logic is important, we can still love a book despite it. But it does hamper the whole reading experience when you a stuck on an point that doesn’t add up to you.

  10. Wattle

    Oh I know what you mean! I need things to be grounded in reality if it’s a contemporary, although occasionally I’ll let completely ridiculous things slide if I’m enjoying the narration 🙂 If it’s historical and something is mentioned as existing when it didn’t, I get annoyed. Fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia and the like get a bit of a free pass, but it *does* have to make sense (I love some good world building).

    Hah I can remember prior to being 4, but I suspect that’s due to a few significant things that happened that have always stuck with me; whereas most people think I’m mental when I say I remember stuff that happened earlier than primary school years 😉
    Wattle recently posted…Wattle’s Wonderings #3

    • trish

      I’ve had that happen in historical fiction too and it just feels sloppy. And then I wonder just how much or little research has gone into the book and it makes me doubt everything. And I feel these sort of issues should be caught in the editing stage. And yes to world building needing to make sense, that’s crucial to me.

      I think the age thing bothered me a lot as some people do remember and some don’t and either way it’s not a big deal. It’s definitely not a big flashing light screaming that you are blocking out bad memories and as the book kept harping back to that, it annoyed me. A lot.

    • trish

      And I think that’s good! We shouldn’t read blindly and a little scepticism is no harm at all 🙂

  11. Christy

    I totally know what you mean. And it might even be tiny details that irritate me more than something big. As for the memories … I have some from age 4, but they’re not long and detailed or anything. Like I remember things I did at my pre-school – my teacher, doing crafts, friends, and certain shorter events. So for me, it would really depend on the situation and what she’s trying to remember. However, any younger than 4 is really pushing it.
    Christy recently posted…Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

    • trish

      I think the age thing bothered me a lot as some people do remember and some don’t and either way it’s not a big deal. It’s definitely not a big flashing light screaming that you are blocking out bad memories and as the book kept harping back to that, it annoyed me. A lot.

      And yes the little things can be annoying and can ruin the overall feel of a book. I have had that happen me too.

  12. Lola

    Love this post so much! I am exactly the same! I think fantasy or fiction still has to make sense. Or make sense for that world. Things have to make sense, else I poke holes in it and it annoys me. I find world building very important and things need to make sense for me. I love it when authors can create a world and do the world building in such a way that everything makes sense and works with the internal rules of that world.

    I also think I’ve become more critical about this than when I was younger, but it can just anoy me to no end when things don’t make sense. I have once done a roleplaying game with a few friends and we made a world of our own and things didn’t make sense and my boyfriend and I had a big issue with this and tried to make sure things made sense, but the others didn’t seem to have much of an issue with it. They had a certain idea and it didn’t matter to them that things didn’t make sense. Great post and I am happy to hear you think the same way about this 🙂
    Lola recently posted…Review: Havoc by Autumn Grey

    • trish

      Like you say it has to make sense for that world and it doesn’t matter whether it’s contemporary or fantasy, there has to be logic. I don’t think I was very critical a few years ago about world building but nowadays I’m pretty demanding. It needs to all add up and actually making sense of it all is one of favourite things in a Fantasy book.
      I can see how the roleplaying scenarios would be frustrating. I would have had an issue with that too!

  13. Elizabeth

    I am totally with you! I need to understand the world we’re in and how it came about. I also notice all these things you mentioned. Sometimes a big distraction from reading for me are anomalies. These make me think more about the author than the book because I wonder why she chose these words. For example, I was reading a book that took place in the late 1990s and was written a few years later and the author had the teenage kids loving Michael Jackson music. These things drive me nuts. Then I start to question other elements of the story, again l am distracted from my purpose, which was to be entertained.
    Have you heard in the media about all the people pointing out that in the new Jurassic movie the actress runs through the jungle wearing high heels the whole time? That’s kind of what it’s like!
    Elizabeth recently posted…Weekly Wrap Up 6/20

    • trish

      Haha I love that about the Jurassic movie, it is just so ridiculous! And you get so caught up in the small details that you it is a huge distraction from the plot. Anomalies are a huge thing for me. And it’s lazy, it’s easy to do a google check, so there is no excuse for sloppy editing like having a pop star from the wrong decade.

  14. Tiffany

    I can take a lot of crazy in my books, but I can’t stand when characters act opposite to their supposed nature (i.e. someone supposedly selfless acting selfishly). I also need my world to make sense, even if it’s fantastical. It annoys me when an author changes the rules of their world in order by creating a ‘Hail Mary’ situation to solve the problem even though nothing previously supports the conclusion. Does that make sense? LOL, I hope so!
    Tiffany recently posted…The Week in Review: “Graduations and BBQs” (June 14th – June 20th)

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.