Friday, July 24, 2009


Michael Davis
Author of the Year, 2008

Like most readers, I want to be taken away from my everyday world when I dive between the pages. The words and images must grab me and not let go. Few authors can do that for me anymore with the thousands of books I’ve read. That’s one of two reasons I don’t read as much fiction as I did twenty years ago (the other is a lack of time given I’ve become consumed by my own demanding muse). So what is it that envelops my mind and encourages me to escape from my life until I reach the last word of a story? Three things:

1. The Voice – The cadence and rhythm of the words must sing in resonance with my inner self so that I am comforted by reading vs. seeing.

2. Realism – Whether its SF, thriller, romantic suspense, doesn’t matter; the descriptions, the characters, the scenes must appear realistic and complete enough I can form vivid flowing visions in my head.

3. Struggle – The characters most be flawed, if not they’re unreal and incapable of creating empathy with their plight

All three are important to me as a reader, and I would assume the same could be said of many readers. Now, voice is very important, but I don’t find that to be the most difficult in creating my stories. That just seems to come natural, maybe because the voice that goes on paper is actually the voice running in head (I know, I’m a weird dude). However, as a writer item 2 and 3 above require the author to walk two tight ropes, and accordingly are the most difficult to achieve without going to far.

The first tightrope requires balance between too much or too little realism. If we go to far in realism or in the character’s struggles the reader can be insulted, revolted, or overwhelmed with the imaginary. Go to little and the reader becomes uninterested, bored, or remains outside the story. The second tightrope deals with balancing the story with our own belief system or morality, which may not be in tune with the latest fad or the PC police. Need an example? I’ll give you two:

1. My first novel, TAINTED HERO, was about an officer in the special forces conflicted between the modern dilemma imposed by social norms of right and wrong. The story was very real, given the hero and heroine were based on actual people I know, and the struggle was close to what often runs through my spirit. The novel did quite well in that it received six 5 star reviews and the realism of the story and characters was cited very positively by all reviewers, except one. She was horrified. Her contention was that it reflected too positively on our military especially given that they were fighting a war and killing people in Iraq (I kid you not). Now, in creating this story, I recognized the tightrope dealing with the parts of the story going against some of the more extreme progressive elements of our society that do not respect the military the way I do. You see, for 25 years of my career I worked side by side with men and women that gave everything of themselves, including their lives, for the country they love. I knew that reflecting the truth, the way they really are, their lives, their sacrifice might anger some but one has to be true to their own belief structure or how can you look in the mirror. In all my stories I do walk the PC tightrope, but sometimes I fall into the pit of telling it like it is, and I do hear about it, but I can live with that.

2. In my novel FORGOTTEN CHILDREN, one powerful scene near the end of the story focused on two characters dealing with their imperfect nature. The female had stayed with a player male even thought she knew his nature was not to commit, and the male exhibited a roaming personality (no, this one was not derived from me, I’ve been hook to the same woman all my life). Now, both these characters are real. I have a sweetheart of a female friend that “Sandra” was modeled after, and ‘Jim’ was a real life womanizer that I once knew. Just before this scene, Jim was offered a bitter taste of what his behavior was doing in terms of the women he used by none other than his friend (wonder who that was). The reader learns there is a reason for his callus behavior and Jim has an epiphany about his live, what he’s become, and what he’s done to so many caring hearts. The scene is powerful because his eyes are opened and he realizes Sandra is what he wants and, well you’ll have to read the story. Point is, a couple reviews that loved the book (gave me 5 stars) didn’t care for that scene. Their reasoning was they didn’t like a woman allowing herself to be used like that. Truth is, I struggled with that very issue when I wrote the book, but her flaws and his blindness are real life and made the final surprise outcome extremely moving. I did walk the tightrope, but said the hell with it and left that one in the story.

What is the point if you selectively leap off the tightrope? Like I said, those elements are difficult to a writer in trying to achieve an acceptable balance for the reader. But sometimes you have to take a risk for your own sanity, say the hell with it, and jump one way or the other, and accept you may hear about it later. After all, you can’t please everyone (g).

1 comment:

  1. We like your attitude, Mike. Sometimes for the sake of realism you have to be true to the storyline and the characters. We also don't read as much as we used to due to the demands of our muse, and life in general.