Reality versus Perception
Reality is a funny thing. On the surface, reality seems to shift and flow with the times or with culture. Different groups of people, different epochs, different mores warp reality to fit the desires and wants of the individual.
Or does it?
Reality is steadfast. It endures. It is truth when all else changes. What shifts and warps are our perceptions of reality, which are as fickle as the individual or culture chooses and lasts about as long.
Teenagers are rebellious.
Everybody has sex frequently and with total strangers.
Profanity is as normal as breathing.
All conservatives are bigots, narrow-minded, racist, homophobic idiots.
Pick up any fiction book, whether secular or religious, and you will find most, if not all, of these perceptions of today’s society. What’s really sad is that American writers overlay other cultures with these same perceptions.
Reality shows us a completely different world. I work with 7th-12th graders in a small, rural community. No, these kids are not perfect. They mess up. They get mad, They do thoughtless things at times. But they do not fit the perceptions of the times. Most of these kids are polite. Most don’t use profanity. Most aren’t sleeping around or taking drugs at the drop of a hat. These are great kids to work with and be around. They come from good families–some blended, some different, some ordinary. Their parents are good people, who genuinely care about others and work hard to take care of the community. They come from all walks of life and all cultures. They invest in the future.
Frankly, I’m sick of picking up a book that automatically makes assumptions about me and my culture that are contrary to reality. I miss the stories about ordinary people who hold fast to that which is good. Ordinary people who struggle and strive and succeed in spite of the obstacles because they believe in something greater. Ordinary people who inspire others. These are true stories that happen all the time in our neck of the woods. Yet somehow, writers don’t think it’s “believable,” they don’t think such stories are “realistic.”
The other day my husband read a review of a book he enjoyed which stated the book was not “realistic” because there was not one word of profanity in it. “People don’t talk like that.” I don’t know what world the reviewer lives in, but I feel sorry for him. Where I live, everyone I know talks without using profanity. We don’t sleep around. Our kids are hard workers who are respectful and don’t take drugs or get into trouble.
I think our moral compasses have gotten so far out of whack we can’t tell reality from illusion any longer. Maybe we, as writers, need to get folks back on track by creating interesting stories with real heroes. They exist in this world. Why not in fiction?