How much truth is in my fiction? For a story to feel real to a reader, I believe a healthy dose of truth must be layered in every page and shine through the fiber of every character. The degree of truth needed depends on the genre. The success of a historical romance novel, for example, is rooted in accuracy and authenticity. With paranormal romance, creating laws for your world and remaining consistent is more relevant. But regardless of genre, to connect to a reader, truth woven into fiction is vital.
All three of my novels open in New York City, as will my fourth, Valkyr Rising. I do venture to other locations, but I like starting in a place I know and love. The energy of NYC runs in my veins and to this day dictates what type of cities I'm most drawn to. In order to paint a setting I must see it in my mind, and if I've been there before that's even better. If I haven't, I do extensive research to ensure the details are vivid and the flavor of the locale is rich.
In my second book of the Kindred series, my main characters, Serenity and Cyrus, go to Morocco. After I wrote the book, I wondered if I'd gotten the description right. So, my husband and I went there. I'm pleased to say there is no substitute for knowing a thing first hand, but thanks to the Internet there is no excuse not to make your setting feel realistic, provided it is set in a "world" that a really exists or once did. Even if a world is created in one's mind, the details will make it come alive.
To create realistic characters, many writers draw from people they know. I do as well, but I like to infuse my characters, female and male, with a chunk of myself. I pluck bits of truth from my own life and throw them into the mix of my plots and character reactions. I can tell when an author has reached too far or has gotten a thought, action, or snippet of dialogue wrong. I'm sure many of you can as well. The words echo in your mind and your gut screams that the passage you just read was BS. There is a difference between disagreeing with a character's choice or action and not believing it.
I pepper my stories with the truth of my past, hopes, desires, and regrets. Although I can say with a wicked smile, I have few regrets. For my characters, I sprinkle in my soul and add a full cup of my heart to make them spring to life and to give my stories backbone.
The fun part for any reader who knows me will be sifting the truth from the fiction.
How many readers enjoy learning about the author through the characters? How many writers dare to expose themselves in their books: the good, the bad, and the naughty?