On Realism in Fiction

It doesn’t really matter where the place is but you really have to be there – at least once, or some place like it – in order to really tell it. You can bullshit til the sun burns out and, well, that’s fine, but it’s those stupid little things that we overlook in real life – the quirks and stains and idiosyncrasies of a place and its people – that give a setting that rich graphic texture that makes you salivate all over the page. Once you have that, you can bullshit all you want.

It’s weird but people really go all giddy for the stupid little things. It gives fiction that air of authenticity and people pick up on that – I know I do – and that’s really where the story can either come alive or die a lingering death. And you have to go there to experience it.

I’m a nowhere guy. I know Hollywood loves New York and LA. They have to set every goddamned travesty they make in a huge city because that’s all they know and they figure it’s all you know. But I grew up on a back road and I love the middle of nowhere. I’ll visit a rundown diner in Dogshead, North Dakota and eat food prepared by a guy with a tentacle growing out of his face, in a dimly lit corner of purgatory populated by people with various skin ailments, personal hygiene issues, and a family lineage pockmarked by incest because that joint’s got stories to tell, and what’s more, it’s got texture.

What it doesn’t have is a lot of hand washing so I may get hepatitis and a persistent GI complaint that will necessitate a hasty stop on the side of the road, coupled with some wailing and judicious use of that handful of napkins I keep stuffed in the glove compartment, but damn it, it’s worth it.

I’ve never been to NY or LA and it’s all been said so often that I have no real impulse to do so. But goddamn! I wanna see Horsecock, Manitoba, and tell you all about the weird shit that happened there.

Its ghosts, its tragedies, the narrow dead end road where that creepy girl lived who liked to spend all her time in the old cemetery, writing poetry about a tall man, cloaked in darkness, who comes to her when the moon is new and everyone figured it was just a phase until her parents caught her having sex with an emaciated homeless meth addict who’d left bite marks all over her and had apparently been molesting her on a monthly basis since she was 12…….

Well….. that’s all pretty tame in my books. It gets a bit creepier.

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