Caffeinated Confession -Do we demand more from our books than reality?

July 23rd, 2014 Kimberly Feature 48 Comments

23rd Jul

Caffeinated Confessions
Welcome to Caffeinated Confessions!

I wanted a forum where we could talk about bookish subjects from swoon-worthy covers to the price of eBooks. I hope to share my thoughts on a different subject each month. So that we can all chat and share opinions. In the process I hope we get to know each other a little better. I made a pot of mocha iced coffee and have some lovely peppermint iced tea so grab a cup and let’s chat:

Do We Demand More from Our Books?

“the difference between life and fiction, is that fiction has to make sense”-International (2009)

I was watching the movie International with my husband on a rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon.  Our hero was interrogating a white-collar criminal and told him, “You will never get away with this; people won’t believe your lies.”  The man smirked and said, “The difference between life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” This immediately made me ponder. Do we as readers demand more from our fictional stories than real life?

We all can turn on the news and hear about tragic events; horrific accidents and atrocities committed against others. We are often given little rhyme or reason as to why the killer/captor did something yet we accepted it as fact. While horrified, stunned and angered by these tragedies we are often left with little answers. Romances, bullying, drama and gossip in real life often make absolutely no sense or follow any type of pattern. How often have you thought to yourself, “OMG, what were they thinking?” Why is it then that we as readers  need our fictional worlds fleshed out, validated and wrapped in a bow?

I know I am guilty of this. I loved well developed worlds, and fleshed out characters whose actions I can wrap my head around no matter how twisted. To get to point C, the author need to take me through A and B. No short cuts please. While I do not need my endings wrapped in a bow, I do need some closure and please don’t leave threads dangling unless you promise me a second book. Am I being too hard on my fictional worlds? Doesn’t art imitate life? Are we more likely to accept the story in “real” life, since it already happened? Is fiction held more accountable because it’s limited to the reader’s imagination and interpretations? Are you more readily able to accept a fictional story if you have been made privy to more life experiences, and exposure to the world around you?

Maybe we need our insatiable need for answers and truth fed? So we demand that our fiction make sense. It does make me ponder and has made me look at my reaction to books a little differently. What do you think? Is the difference between life and fiction, that fiction has to make sense? Do we demand more from our books?

Photo of kimbacaffeinate
About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

48 Responses to “Caffeinated Confession -Do we demand more from our books than reality?”

  1. Wendy Darling

    Such an interesting discussion–I think we do demand more from books than not only reality, but pretty much all forms of entertainment. I see readers complaining about lack of explanation sometimes in books, and while that’s certainly a fair criticism in many circumstances, I’m usually able to overlook flaws in one area if I’m enjoying something else. But sometimes I think readers do get so caught up in THERE MUST BE PERFECTLY DETAILED WORLD-BUILDING AND EXPLANATIONS that I think they miss sheer enjoyment of books that are solid otherwise. I’ve been binge re-watching all the old Twilight Zone episodes recently, and so many fantastic stories would be lost if only concentrated on a need for perfection.

  2. Sandy

    I completely understand what you’re saying and agree with you. I definitely think we expect a bit more of our books than we do real life. But I’m not sure I would change that. I think it can go both ways though. Great post that really got me thinking!

  3. Amber

    This is such a great discussion topic. That quote makes sense. As readers, everything has to fit together. We have to know who did what, why, and how. If a book is about someone who commits murder, we have to know why they did it and how they got away with it. That may be a bad example. It’s late at night, haha.

    I think it’s important that fiction makes sense because the readers are depending on the author to explain everything. Maybe not everything, some things though. You can’t have a character do something that they would never do unless there is a reason for them to do so, they have a change of heart, etc.

    Authors are responsible for making sure the book’s events and character actions go together. I think we expect fiction to make sense because it’s being created and formed in a writer’s mind. In real life, people have free will, they choose what they do and there doesn’t have to be a reason because humans aren’t always the nicest people.

    To answer your basic discussion question, yes, I think readers demand more from books than reality. 🙂 I apologize for the rambling, it was kind of stream of conscious so I jump around a little. Haha.

  4. Ana

    I guess I do expect more from books compared to reality. I guess it’s because books can give you the whole story of their fantasy world or suspenseful mystery. In real life, we’re limited by what we hear from the news or other people, and we have to fill in the gaps ourselves. We don’t get to see into the heads of the people involved IRL, but we can see into the heads and motivations of the people in the books.

    I do need a book’s ending to make sense if I want to end up liking the book. If it seems like the author just changed it at the last second, or if it goes against all the character development, I probably won’t like it.

  5. Stephanie

    What a fascinating post. Definitely a lot to think about. I do think we expect more from books than from reality because when crazy/bizarre things happen in real life we still want answers. We want whatever happened to make sense or for us to at least have an understanding as to what could have caused the event to happen so we can look for signs of it happening again (and stop it if possible/necessary depending on the situation). Things don’t always make sense- but we desperately want them to. Even though in real life we can’t always have our way, we can with books and I think that is why we need things to make sense. 🙂 (Not sure if my answer even makes sense, but I tried to explain my thoughts). 😉

  6. Cyn

    I think I do demand more from books than reality. Especially when it comes to happy ending, haha but not necessarily that it has to make sense. I know that in real life, happy ending is not always the case, but with fiction, it doesn’t always have to be “sensible”, and things can “just work out”. People read to get away from “real life” right? That being said, I do get annoyed if book endings don’t make sense with the book.

  7. Tyler H Jolley

    Very thought provoking, Kimba. If it’s done right, (i.e., Harry Potter) it can be as outrageous as the author can fathom and I’ll go with it. But if it’s not a fantasy/sci-fi book I expect it to be more realistic. I think that’s why I have such a hard time with romance novels. It’s just not how life works. I can’t get behind it.
    I’m with you on closure, I need it. If I know the next book is coming out soon, I’m fine with a cliffhanger, but at least some of my questions need to be answered in the current book. I’ve gotten sucked into series where nothing was answered until the 3rd or 4th book. It was brutal.
    Excellent topic, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

  8. Francine Soleil

    I personally think that both should make sense. I tend to question a lot in real life too. I don’t really get answers, but I do question. Which I do with books too. I think the difference sometimes is that some readers have an intimate and closer look into fiction as compared to hearing about everything that’s happening in real life. Not that those don’t affect us too, but sometimes it just feels so far away. Does that make any sense?

  9. Stephanie

    I don’t know if I would say I expect more, but I expect a reasonable representation and something that will grab my interest and make me care. Real life is in technicolor. We see the people, and the places involved in vivid images, and our senses and emotions are engaged. A book must do the same. Yes, it is harder to do, given the circumstances and what one has to work with, but that is the art. That is the point of the art.

  10. Vilia

    I’m a pretty demanding reader 🙂 I get irked when authors break verisimilitude or don’t flesh out their world properly as I want to be swept away by the sheer awesomeness of the story. I guess the difference between real world and literary world is that the latter is supposed to be a respite from the former and it can’t function in this manner if it is supremely illogical. Exceptions to this of course would be Catch 22 and other absurdist novels.

  11. Laura Plus Books

    I definitely expect more from fictional worlds but I honestly don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. I don’t mind if not everything wraps up perfectly but short cuts just aren’t cool. For me, I read so that I can really get into a different world and though I understand why people would want books to be more like real life, I just expect more from a fictional world. 😀

  12. Stacy (StacyHgg)

    Great topic!
    I ABSOLUTELY NEED my fiction to “make sense.” Peoples actions in the real world may not always appear on the outside to make sense, but if we dove into their lives to understand the person more deeply then it probably would. In books we get inside the characters minds and into their relationships so we know what is realistic in any given situation for that person or couple. This would not be the case with strangers. In other words, I don’t think we expect more from fiction than reality. It just seems that way. We just want everything to make sense without shortcuts (like you said). I get very frustrated when drama is created unessesarily. Make me understand and empathize with the main characters, instead of the dreaded eye roll. Ya know?

  13. Lupdilup

    I never thought of this, but my answer is yes. Things have to make sense to me in order for me to stay in the author’s fictional world, because if they don’t, they lose me and I hurts the credibility of their world or the characters. In the same token, a good author would make me believe the biggest nonsense I ever

  14. Angel

    Great topic!
    Here’s my author perspective:

    When completing a book I always leave some strings…how do you not? How do you have absolute closure? I literally have no idea how you do this. The characters I’ve created do not live in a bubble…they live in their own world, life will go on for them even after the book is over (or at least that’s how I see it.) So of course, I can give them a HEA but there will always been some glimmer of the future for them as well.

    That being said, I do tend to write plotty books and have several with a mystery or thriller twist. I make sure those threads are tied nicely, but even then…well, life goes on. It’s not so much a cliffhanger as some openness. I feel like I have no idea how to write it differently.

    And for the record, I absolutely can not write insta-love. I can write attraction but never, EVER instalove. It rubs me wrong and takes out the part of the story I love to write the most. The build up and emotional/physical development (For romances).

    Anyway, thanks for bringing up a fun subject. It’s very helpful.

  15. Heidi

    Hmm.. Interesting… Yes I demand more from my books because I am paying to be entertained. Where real life there is often no rhyme or reason to anything. I guess I never thought about it. Brilliant topic.

  16. Angela Adams

    Events in real life don’t always make sense…or get resolved with a HEA. For this reason, when I’m looking for a novel, I want the character’s motivation to be logical, and I want a HEA. Great topic — thanks for the post!

  17. Lola

    I like it when my books are realistic, but maybe I demand more from books then from reality. Although in real life I am also wondering why someone did something or why they behave a certain why, I am just assuming their behavior makes sense somehow, because in real life we usually don’t get to find out their motivations and fiction sometimes we do.
    Actually I like things to make sense, but both in fiction and in real life, but some things just don’t.
    I do think that because in real life it actually happened makes it easier to accept then in fiction, I’ve know that I’ve read quite some books where i think ‘no this can’t really happen, things like this won’t happen in real life’, but who knows it might just. Great discussion topic!

  18. Louise Cusack

    Fabulous topic, and one I discuss regularly with friends. I demand closure out of fiction. Life is too ‘open ended’ for me, with no explanations for why people do things, why couples break up, why disputes are started, etc. I find that disconcerting, so I want to lose myself in fiction and be inside the character’s head *understanding* the reasons for their choices. That way at least my fiction makes sense, even if the outside world doesn’t!

  19. Berls

    Absolutely! Because I can demand more from books than I do life – which is probably a big part of why I love books so much. Sometimes life just sucks and you have no explanation or reason. People do things that don’t make sense. Heck, I do things that don’t make sense. But it’s really nice to know there’s a place to escape to where things fit. Like you – I don’t need a neat bow at the end of my book, but even if things are messy and tragic, I expect them to make sense. If they don’t I’m not satisfied. I have real life to turn to when I don’t want things to make sense. LOL! Great post Kimba 🙂

  20. Laquesha

    I think that I do expect a lot from fiction and I think it needs to make sense, at least more than life does. To me, fiction is kind of like an outlet, a way of escaping our real lives that have no rhyme or reason for the things that happen. Fiction, most of the time, is the perfect version of life, structured and satisfying.

  21. Charli

    I totally agree with this. I find myself totally understand the ‘OMG what were you thinking’ situation. I also have found the complete opposite. As I love reading so much, I demand more from life. I want life to be like the romance novels, the adventure novels, the thriller (without the murdering, please!). I sometimes forget that most of these books are just stories and love isn’t like the novels, we don’t go on adventures to The Enchanted Woods or have friends named Moonface – but oh, how I wish we did!

  22. Melissa (Books and Things)

    Simple answer: yes. Just the fact that I almost demand a HEA proves that fact. I usually say that I want my HEA since we are not guaranteed one in life. 😀 My fantasy better be better than reality… otherwise what is the point in daydreaming? 😉

  23. Siiri

    Probably. Since you know, cheating happens IRL every single day and we don’t want that from books. We want people to stay away from temptation and be noble, honorable, generous, wonderful and all that. And that OMG what were they thinking line is just about right! You make some great points and often, I have to take a step back and reevaluate my thoughts and feelings regarding real life and books. We do demand more from our books and characters and it’s only too though since it’s fiction *shrugs* it’s our escape and we want to read everything we hope and want for the world to be.

  24. Carrie

    Wow… never thought about this before until reading this. I am thoroughly guilty. I have to have validation in my books… or at the very least an explanation whether I deem it valid or not. At least I get some sort of closure. In real life I’m curious and if I find out great but if I don’t, whatever. Ce la vie! None of my business. When I’m reading, I find it totally my business.

    Fantastic topic!

  25. Nyx

    I don’t it’s exactly that we expect more but more that, you are reading a book. It’s a story. It has a beginning, middle and end (however hazy that end is). You are looking at this book and living inside this person’s head while they go through their journey. So yes, I need some sort of rhyme or reason to this. It’s different from a news clipping and such because they don’t have the whole story. You aren’t immersed in that person’s life. You have no clue what they have gone through, what their personality is, their family dynamics, their beliefs, etc. You get all this in a book, which is why we demand for it to make sense, because it’s already giving you all the pieces (or at least you are hoping for it anyway) and so they must fit.

    So I guess that quote is both right and wrong 🙂

  26. Braine

    I guess I do demand a lot from my books. I echo your thoughts plus if I’m to look at life the same way as that dude you saw, then yes, I’m living thru my characters where HEA is guaranteed and everything Happens for a reason and their a-ha moment is on it’s way. It’s not like that in real life sometimes so I want to have those even for a brief period of time, keeps me optimistic to a degree

  27. Candace

    This is such a great topic for discussion! I think that I often do expect more, but on the other hand I know I remind myself of real life and how things might go. I do want things tied up in my book which isn’t always ‘real’ but a book is for enjoyment and I guess and I need a conclusion. This is definitely something to ponder!

  28. kindlemom1

    You have some really great and very valid points Kim. I too maybe expect too much especially in the fantasy department. I want the unbelievable to be believable and I want it all the make sense. I think this is why I have such a hard time with this genre.

  29. Victoria (aka Zemfirka)

    Great point… but then, isn’t that why we read fiction? Perhaps some of the things we demand of fiction are unrealistic, but at the same time reading fiction (for me at least) is a form of escapism if you will and my expectation are that much higher! 😉

  30. Debbie Haupt

    Kimba, what a great conversation starter.
    Some of us do expect more from our fiction, but that’s okay because no two people ever read the same book, we read for different reasons. And no one should be told that their way is the wrong way because there is no wrong way to read a book. In fact reading the book in the first place a major big deal.
    And this is speaking as a reader and as an editorial reviewer because different genres have to be reviewed differently. ie I don’t review a hard fantasy the same way I do a series romance, they not only draw a different audience but their end goal is different.
    I always look forward to your caffeinated confessions.

  31. Megan

    I think I definitely expect more from books because an author has so much power over the world they’ve created, they CAN make everything make sense. I have nowhere near that power in real life, so if I read a book, I want the author to use the power I don’t have in the real world. Does that make sense?

  32. Rita

    Hmm…good topic! You are making us use our brain cells today 🙂
    I read a lot of mysteries– whether cozies, romantic, suspenseful, police procedurals– and I like (demand?) the author to make a logical path to the conclusion and to *have a conclusion*. If you are presenting a bunch of clues for us to ponder, then you need to let us know the answer, I guess.

    With “women’s” fiction and the like, I don’t want insta-love, though we do hear of it in real life (my opinion: life has insta-lust or insta-intrigue but there is not such thing as insta-love except when your baby is born or your adopted child is given to you).

    In literary fiction or contemporary fiction, I don’t mind an ending that isn’t wrapped up in a bow, because I can use my own opinion as to what will happen next. This can be a good thing, if it’s not a cliffhanger with no sequel planned.
    Thanks for a provoking subject–you rock!

  33. Jenea

    I am a person who wants closure, whether good or bad. I’m not a fan of open ending books. I guess as a reader, I do expect a little more from the book than in real life. Life isn’t always happy and full of sunshine, so having an a HEA in the fictional world is something I look forward to.

  34. Laurel-Rain Snow

    I don’t mind an ending that leaves me pondering…in fact, I love trying to come to my own conclusions. Hopeful endings are my preference, since I want to believe that the characters will resolve their issues.

  35. Katherine

    I think so. I don’t necessarily want realism but I want engaging characters, a logical plot and an ending that is nicely wrapped up. I don’t like open ended or messy or all the stuff that happens in real life. I expect my adult characters to act like adults which doesn’t often happen in real life and I don’t like them to be petty or hold grudges. Interesting topic. I haven’t really thought of it this way before.

  36. Christine

    I think we do demand more, but it could be because a lot of reading is escapism — even if the story is not a happy-ending sort, a lot of readers (including myself) do want to know the motivations and reasons behind people’s actions. I think because we don’t always get those answers in real life, we want a glimpse into what those answers could be in various situations in the books we read.

  37. Tanya

    I think I do expect more from my fiction. I get so frustrated by the things in real life that just leave me baffled and are without explanation, that I want something I can wrap my head around. I need to understand the process of the story line and have an idea of what these characters were thinking. This is why I rarely watch the news.

  38. Felicia The Geeky Blogger

    Fiction needs to have answers and if romance a HEA (no matter how unbelievable). If I wanted reality then I would read non-fiction where answers are not always available and life doesn’t turn out grand. I think that is the reason I don’t read a lot of general fiction.

  39. Mary

    Oh, I definitely want my fiction (and my reality) to make sense. I want the whys answered and the HEA. Of course, in reality, that doesn’t always happen. People are nuts. HEAs aren’t forever. But in fiction, I pretty much demand it.

  40. Jessica

    Oh man, LOL. This is one of my real life bff’s favorite topic. YES. I demand infinitely more from my books than I do from reality. If I wanted real life, I’d watch the news or read nothing but nonfiction. Real life mostly sucks. Not on a personal level, but the reality is that we live in a world where terrible things happen, and there is not one thing we can do about it. Books are a wonderful escape. In (my) books the victim is always rescued in time, the villain always gets caught, and everyone lives HEA. That’s why I’m so vocal about my book peeves 😉 If I read a book that IMO is no better than real life, I feel cheated. Great discussion topic 😉

  41. ShootingStarsMag

    Great topic. I think we do want more out of our books. I know I could read something realistic and believe it, because it COULD or HAS happened in real life…but those stories are often news clips, etc. With a book, you need a fuller story. You need rhyme and reason.

  42. Melanie Simmons

    I think you are correct. We do expect more out of fiction than we do from real life. I find this funny, now that you mention it. I was writing a review for a shifter book and even mentioned how unrealistic the story was because there was instant mating between two men and one woman and that would never happen in real life. I could see two women and one man, because that does happen in the animal kingdom, but why would one woman need two men? Nevermind, that people can’t turn into animals in the first place. I still found the story cute, even if my mind was screaming that it didn’t make sense.

  43. Jennifer Bielman

    I think it depends on the book. Some books make me believe in their unbelievably. Some books are too obviously out of this world to take seriously. I don’t know why I have these invisible standards but they are there and I don’t think they are a good or bad thing.

  44. Melliane

    Ah that’s a great and difficult topic. It’s true that I need that the book made sense to me but I don’t really compare it to real life. But I need a real end, I need a real good story otherwise I won”t be happy. I know some like to be able to imagine the future events, well I don’t. But it’s true that with all that I don’t really think of the real world or else, not the same feeling.

  45. Ginny

    ummmm….that is something to think about. I don’t really know where I fall on this one. I do want some kind of closure but I don’t mind a cliffhanger as long as I’m not left hanging for two years on the next book. I don’t mind insta-love as long as it’s believable. I do want the progression of events to make sense even if in real life it wouldn’t. But then again in real life I haven’t ran into any other-wordly creatures. How awesome would that be?! I guess I have more feelings about this than I originally thought. 😉 Thanks for getting the brain flowing this morning. Hope you have an awesome day!

  46. Jonetta (Ejaygirl)

    For me, it’s all in how you tell the story. I can live with an inconclusive ending, as long as I’m left with something thought provoking or mind stimulating where I can use my own imagination for suppositions. Many of the classics don’t tie things up neatly, leaving those things to the reader to ponder. I think today, many want things laid out for them in fiction, especially the mystery genre. Though, I’m quite comfortable being left to my own imagination but only if the writer has done her/his job in laying down a compelling foundation.

  47. Lola

    I guess I do. I want my books to be extraordinary in order for me to give them 5 stars or perfect (for me) which is not necessarily good, I know. I love reading to escape so I don’t think it’s absolutely a bad thing to demand more than real life. I need closure as well if it’s a series or a standalone unlike some authors that give US the possibility to interpretation. I think my favorite characters in books are the ones that DON’T/CAN’T/WON’T exist in real life and I like that b/c, like I said, I wan’t to escape and originality as well. I hope that answers the question and it’s kinda the first time I answer to that kind of question so hope I was at least a bit clear. 😛