Is it hot? Is it cold? This video that Laughing Squid shared made me think of all the ways we experience things that are unreal.
While we might laugh at the overreaction, it is cold for them.
Is it hot?
My friend is always hot and it gets worse as she ages. She will state ‘it is hot’, when it’s only 15 degrees (59 for our Fahrenheit friends). The reality of the temperature isn’t the point. The experience is. For our L.A. friends who likely don’t have much more than a sheet on their beds, it’s cold and they aren’t prepared for a cold night’s sleep.
In most temperate climates, you will see a wide range of clothing displayed on a cool winter afternoon. On the same sidewalk, you can see people in boots, scarves and heavy coats walking alongside people in shorts, tee-shirts and sandals.
What does this mean for the reader or writer?
Over at Story Wonk, Lani is fond of saying “reality is no excuse for bad storytelling”. It means that saying ‘it really happened’ doesn’t make it true. Truth in a story is not about facts, it’s about emotional punch. If an author sticks only to the facts, the story won’t carry the emotional punch. If the author finds the truth of the story, the core emotions, then the facts needed to tell the story will fall into place.
The difference between truth and fact
On a day where the temperature drops just below freezing we have multiple truths and multiple stories.
A story told in L.A., might revolve around the truth of a long and hopeless future. One where winter comes and doesn’t leave.
Told in Juneau Alaska, it could be a dystopian future where the world has warmed beyond human endurance and we all live below ground in temperature controlled environments.
For my friend, it could be a story of the relief found in a cool day. For me, a story of buying a new light winter coat.
The great stories don’t sit in a world where the temperature is chilly. They don’t rely on people’s perception of cold, they make it unbearable. Is it hot? Well, at 59 degrees it’s hard to say. But is it hot at 115? At 135? The reader gets a very different experience when the temperature rises.
The bottom line?
For writers, even memoir writers, it’s important to recognize that you are telling a story, not giving evidence. Documentaries are edited for story – reality TV is mainly written and in no way reality. If you want to entertain or educate your reader, make sure you draw them through the story.
For readers, it’s about you. The story is written for your enjoyment. For every science fiction reader who blasts the author for ‘unrealistic’ science, there’s a fan who just accepts the rules of the story.
The answer to the question, is it hot?, is just another question. Do you feel the heat?
A quick announcement
Book 3 of the Madeline Journeys is available as a Kindle book.
Madeline’s home is threatened by a magical assault from the faraway City, intent on destroying the heir to the Summer Lands. There she must go, if she is to finally put the past to rest.
Help is easily offered by newfound friends – Regis, a human mage, and Springheart, an elf wanderer. But who can Madeline really trust in a City where trust is bought and sold, and even her magic begins to fail her?