Those are words that can sometimes make your skin crawl.
Some of us deflate a little on payday when we have to sit down with a stack of bills and pay them – especially when there are unexpected expenses. That money seems to dwindle faster than we can pay the piper.
Reality is something we sometimes forget when writing a book. I mean the kind of reality we each have to deal with on a daily basis.
Sandi lives the romantic life of a private investigator. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Of course, that life includes murder, hard work, dealing with difficult people and figuring out who the bad guy is. Unfortunately, it also includes paying the bills for both home and business, grocery shopping, cooking, feeding the dog and running all kinds of errands. I often forget those essential parts of her life.
She and Pete don’t have a perfect marriage, but that’s reality, too. They fuss over things sometimes which is normal for any married couple. Often the issues are small ones.
I remember a woman in a restaurant telling a story about going out to dinner with her husband. When she got to the part about what they had for dessert, things got out of control. She said they had rhubarb pie. He said, no, that they’d had apple pie. She corrected him and insisted it had been rhubarb. He, in turn, corrected her. Uh oh. Before long things got out of control. She stomped out of the restaurant. He whipped out his wallet, threw money on the table, and stomped out after her.
They could have argued about something of substance, but no, it was about pie.
I suspect Pete and Sandi would be more likely to argue about spending money and paying bills, or one of them taking too many chances when dealing with a client or a crime. Of course, the pie issue could lead to some humor.
In most cases I enjoy a book that breaks away from the drama for a moment and lets the character do something normal, like feed the baby or take out the trash. It makes them feel more real to me.
The same applies to pets. If a dog starts barking, it doesn’t always mean there’s a stranger nearby. Earlier today one of my dogs started barking and wouldn’t stop. I went to the door to hush her up, and found her lying on the patio, casually barking at nothing. I guess she just wanted to hear her own voice. She also always manages to get the last “word” in, too. I tell her to be quiet and she barks one last time before moving on to something else. It’s like she’s saying, “I’ll stop barking when I’m good and ready. Okay, I’m ready.”
Reality can be anything – a kid coming to the door to sell cookies or the one whose ball landed in your backyard and he wants it back, a delivery man, someone who mistakenly received your mail along with his own, or a neighbor complaining about your dog barking. Thankfully, none of my neighbors have complained – yet.
Your protagonist might be on the phone listening to a bad guy threaten her life, and suddenly the voice of reality comes from outside the front door. “Yoohoo. I need your help.” It’s the little old lady from across the street whose toilet is running over and she can’t turn off the water.
Reality is what it is, things that happen in everyday life. I think a dose of the little old lady or the kid with an armful of cookies can help the reader relate to the story and your characters.
I guess you’d have to call this a Reality Check. There’s more to a mystery than the mystery. Life happens, and your characters have to be ready to juggle events.
Just thought I’d mention it.
Until next time, treat yourself to a piece of pie and enjoy every morsel. Just don’t try to tell anyone what kind you had.
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My new book, Black Butterfly – A Bogey Man Mystery, is nearing completion. In the meantime, if you haven’t read Bogey’s Ace in the Hole, you might give it a try. And remember, this is fiction. No child, or Church Lady, or mother-in-law was harmed in the writing of this book. They simply make good characters.