LJS’s post about DEAD GIRL DANCING got me thinking about ghosts.
My grandmother’s house is haunted. Really. Most everyone in the family, including a science teacher, agrees, as did a few objective friends who visited with me when I was a teen.
Having grown up with ghostly presences, they are part of my view of reality, and thus I continually forget that not everyone believes in or has experienced them. This has caused a challenge for me in writing about them; critique partners are always asking two things: 1) How does she know it’s not her imagination? And 2) Why isn’t she more scared?
I try to revise accordingly, often taking the story farther from my own actual experience to do so, but truly, my answer to both questions, really, is, “Clearly you haven’t ever spent much time with a real ghost.”
This is an extreme example, but I think it’s not uncommon for varying versions of reality to sometimes cause problems in writing and selling books. A more mundane one:
I know a published YA author with a manuscript about a girl living in a trailer park. She hasn’t been able to sell it. In a GOSSIP GIRL market, she has heard repeatedly from editors that, “Nobody wants to read about poor people.” The award-winning, trailer-park-set THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY notwithstanding, I guess.
But lots of real kids and teens live in trailer parks, and at least some of them read books (even if they have to get them from the library instead of buying their own). And the overwhelming response to books featuring MCs with ethnic backgrounds — “Finally! A book with a character like me!” — seems to imply that those editors might be wrong. Maybe the marketing consideration is the real objection, and they just don’t want to say that.
In what ways has your reality, or the realities of your work, bumped up against conflicting views? (I wonder if writers who would like to incorporate more of a religious view in characters, and find pushback, is another example.)
Perhaps more important, how do we escape the assumptions and blinders of our personal views of reality to do a better job of creating worlds that a large number of people recognize and feel at home in?