What is the difference between a realistic and unrealistic narrative? Read a story written by a child, or any naff fiction. Do you notice a common trend?
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One lady is the perfect example of this.
Mary Sue does not always do the right thing, but at least she is honest about it. Her narrator says “Mary robbed the bank and felt really sorry for all the innocent people she tied up.” This is where it gets unrealistic.
Your character could be an absolute saint, never doing or saying a single thing wrong. It’s fiction. Who are we to judge? But the narrator is a bridge between the fictional character and real-life reader. They have to stay true to reality.
In this example, the narrator might portray Mary Sue as a heroine. Tying up innocent people is described as a noble act, like she is the female Robin Hood.
Or the narrator lies about her motivation. “She did it all for the greater good.” But we see her spend the cash on new clothes and a fast car.
Maybe the narrator does say Mary Sue felt sorry about what she did, but then the reader discovers this is not the case. She laughs it off with her friends, mocking the security guard who fainted in fear.
A blank space. The narrator does not know what events/thoughts/feelings happened in this vital interval, so they leave it blank. These details are left to the reader’s imagination.
What is a realistic narrative?
It does not matter if the characters are all perfect Mary Sues. The narrator is imperfect in their interpretation or recollection of events. There is something at odds between the events and how they are described.
Yours might be an omniscient narrator, seeing inside the head of every character, but this only concerns what they know. How they feel about the events in the story is up to you, the author.
An imperfect narrator = a realistic narrative.
She pressed the shotgun barrel up in the bank teller’s face so that it tapped the glass screen.
“Empty the cash into this bag. Do it now!” she said, her voice a hard hiss through the ragged mouth hole of her balaclava.
“I’ll do it. Please, don’t shoot.” the teller said.
He began whimpering as he reached for the emergency alarm hidden beneath the counter. His fingers were shaking, slippery with sweat.
That was the moment when I tore the roof away in a shower of rubble and shattered tiles. My clawed hand reached down, plucked them both up and popped them in my mouth. Delicious.
If you know Mary Sue, what does she think about all of this? Is she willing to release a press statement about her recent spree of armed robberies? We’re here to listen, not to judge.