One of the things I recently discovered is that many of my favorite books deal with real life problems, often set within the confines of a fantasy world. You’d think that writing fantasy would mean that the issues at hand would be whether or not your dragon can talk or whether you’re going to be eaten by a troll before or after you become a princess. However, the fact is, there are real life issues at the heart of every good story, whether it’s a contemporary fantasy, social science fiction, gothic horror, cozy mystery or inspiring romance.
One such example comes from a book I recently read—The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bick—where an Amish teenage girl deals with issues like faith and rebellion and obedience, all while the world outside her sheltered community is being ravaged by a mysterious vampire infestation. Faith, rebellion and obedience are things that most teenagers struggle with and by including these elements in her story, Bick not only made her character seem real, she made her entire world come to life. She brought the reader one step closer to believing her story because she created a three-dimensional character.
Another book, Ironskin—a magical retelling of Jane Eyre by Tina Connolly—depicts our world in the midst of recovering from a war with the fey, and many people, the main character included, are struggling with its after effects. Jane has been wounded and is forever changed because of it, which is exactly how war transforms people in the real world. The readers quickly empathizes with Jane, and this empathy makes us want to know more about her.
When I started writing my recently released young adult novel, Fathom, I knew there would be otherworldly creatures involved and that they would play a big part in the story. However, I always felt that at its heart, Fathom was a contemporary story about a girl dealing with the loss of her mother and sister. The book also deals with current real life problems that face today’s teenagers, issues like bullying and peer pressure and life-threatening illnesses. The main character releases some of her inner angst by journaling, a method that can actually help people to both confront and learn to deal with their problems. As a result, most of the people who’ve read the book have been able to relate to the main character. She exemplifies the teenage experience, because she has to deal with things we had to deal with when we were teenagers.
I love reading and writing fantasy because it takes me away from this world and because it’s so incredibly imaginative. But I can relate to fantasy fiction more when the characters are crafted in such a way that they have to face problems similar to those I’ve had to face. I’m encouraged when I see these characters not only survive these problems, but in some way become stronger because of them.
What books have you read recently that you were able to identify with the main character? How do you think that author was able to make that character more real?
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With twenty years’ experience in publishing, Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as the editor of Victorian Homes magazine to become a full-time novelist. Her first two novels, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles and Feast: Harvest of Dreams were published by HarperVoyager. Fathom is both her first YA novel and her first indie published novel. When not writing, she loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time. Born in the Midwest, she now lives in Southern California with her husband, their two German shepherds and a Siamese cat. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, her blog, and her website.