It’s a complicated question.
I took a writing class a few years ago and I learned a lot from it but one of the biggest things I learned to think about was whether I write to escape from reality or to face it.
The man who taught the class began the course by saying that we write to accurately portray reality. He was very much into what I call ‘reality fiction’. He couldn’t relate to fantasy, science fiction or any writing that wasn’t concretely set in the real world. Using concrete details was his mantra through the weeks of class.
At the time I had a strong negative reaction to those words because I have always read and written to escape from the real world. Mostly. I thought. And I kind of still feel that way but with exceptions.
On the surface, I read and write to visit a new place with new people experiencing new things. But for any writing to resonate with the reader there have to be real emotions, real details and real actions that the reader can relate to and put into context. That is what makes it good writing; when the reader can completely relate to the story.
No matter what world you set your story in, you still have to have concrete details the reader can relate to otherwise they won’t connect to the story at all.
I spent the weeks in that class pushing my comfort zone writing the real world assignments. I didn’t enjoy the topics I wrote about but I saw my writing grow stronger. I concentrated on concrete details and listened to what the others in that class wrote. I found it really hard. I learned a lot.
I learned that I still prefer stories that take me away from everyday life. But I wouldn’t enjoy them if I couldn’t relate to them.
I also learned how to incorporate concrete details into my fantasy and science fiction stories. I’ve gotten feedback from readers who don’t usually read my genres but say they can relate to the characters and what they are going through because of the real world details I’ve woven into the stories. That’s progress.
The lesson here? Sometimes the things we react to most strongly are the things we are weakest in. When we push our comfort zones and keep an open mind, we can become better writers.