In my writer's group, which I love by the way, we critique members' projects on a monthly basis (well 11 months out of the year, we take January off) and, in order to be fair and balanced, the submissions are read and critiqued anonymously. It isn't until after all comments have been made that the author reveals him or herself. So I showed up at my writer's group meeting back in November and unveiled my latest short story.
I got to the venue early and started laying out the cookies and setting up my iPad and chatting with one good friend and fellow member who arrived before me. "Didn't you write anything this time?" she asked.
I may not be the best but I try to be prolific. I submit between one and three projects a month to the group. "Yes," I said.
"I assume you wrote that fantasy piece," she answered.
"No," I responded, "I've been working on pure literary stuff lately. Nothing fantasy or paranormal-based for once."
My friend grimaced, "Now why would you want to go and do that?"
I finished setting the table and sat down, "Well, I don't know," I answered, "I just thought I'd do something a little different."
"But who wants to read about the real world? I live in the real world and it sucks. I read to get out of the real world."
Soon the other members arrived and the discussions began but, as I got home that night, I started to give our exchange some real thought. Why do I, like my friend, gravitate towards reading and writing fantasy over general literary fiction? Is it just that I like to make up my own worlds? Yeah, that could be it. Or is it because I get tired of going to work every day and playing by the rules of the real world? Definitely that too. All literature is an escape but fantasy is more so an escape and it just feels like a safer world to play in.
For example - I, for one, hate horror movies for the most part. I love old Dracula films and those awesomely-bad B-movies on the Sci Fi channel but I hate...despise....will not attend movies about real life murderers or serial killers or anything like that. The Fog? Yes. Halloween? No! Thinking about this, I realize it all plays into my fantasy is better than reality/literary world. Fantasy worlds are safe. If they are scary, it's okay because they aren't real. Fantasy worlds take me out of my real existence for a few minutes instead of reinforcing it.
So, in retrospect, I came to a conclusion on why I write fantasy / paranormal 99% of the time:
1. As stated above, fantasy worlds are safe. It's never going to really happen to the reader.
2. You - the reader - can never get that far ahead of me - the writer. It's my path. I'm laying the bricks as we go. I'm opening the door for you. I get the joy of surprising you. I get to make you say "wow" because you don't know what lies ahead until I light the way.
3. As the writer, I can create a suspension of disbelief anywhere along the way. Why yes, that character does fly. You can't say it's preposterous because it's fantasy.
4. There are definite endings in fantasy / paranormal. The evil will be defeated. The magic will work. There's always another trick. In the real world, evil will be back. It can't be banished forever. But in fantasy, it can. The writer can create a new world and take everyone into it with him/her.
5. I don't have to play by the rules. (Unless we go down the time travel road, but that's a whole other animal). I can barely suffer through some police shows on TV when they try to make the viewer believe that one person can do all that...as if the beat cop/detective/medical examiner/CSI specialist/attorney are all one person. I don't buy it because I live in the real world, I work in the real world, and that's not how it's done so don't lie to me. But in a fantasy if a character has multiple roles, well okay, it's a fantasy. I'll go with it. So I like to write by my own rules, not reality's.
6. Endings are so much better in fantasy. While talking on the phone the other night to another friend, we got on the topic of what makes for good writing. I said that when I was young, I decided that a great writer has a 'wow' ending, something unexpected and amazing. I said to her to think of Saki and O. Henry. I loved those type of endings when I was a child. I decided that to be a good writer, I needed strong endings like those. Till today, if my ending is weak, I feel the piece has failed. But I find I can achieve better endings in the fantasy world.... and that is why I prefer to play there.
I still experiment in literary fiction but fantasy / paranormal will always be my love and that's why I write fantasy.