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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > August 2016 > True lies

True lies

What is reality? In fiction, realism is not necessarily real life, and that isn’t what readers really want anyway, argues Sophie Beal

Film director Richard Curtis summed it up: ‘If you write a story about a soldier going AWOL and kidnapping a pregnant woman and finally shooting her in the head, it’s called searingly realistic, even though it’s never happened in the history of mankind. Whereas if you write about two people falling in love, which happens about a million times a day all over the world, for some reason or another, you’re accused of writing something unrealistic and sentimental.’

In fiction, whatever the medium, writers strive to achieve realism. But that notion of ‘reality’ – the kind that keeps viewers gripped, and glued to their screens – doesn’t really correspond to real life.

Curtis was talking to the BBC about his time-travel romance About Time. Watching the film, I waited for the fight. Surely the female lead would find out about her partner Tim’s time travel, or hear he’d almost cheated on her with his first love. She’d feel either manipulated or betrayed. But the film finished before any of this happened. There were plenty of tears but the conflict came from events outside their control. These stimulated the character growth and by the end Tim learnt to savour everyday life, whether or not he could change what was ahead.

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Earn from your writing and get published: Cash prize competitions, calls for submissions and writing opportunities in 20 pages of Writers' News Discover your inner writer Cut to the heart of your novel – without losing the plot Social skills: Learn to use your online time to the max 10 top tips to get your book published and keep it selling Reader successes: Readers share their success stories Meet our publishing deal competition winner Star interview: Prize-winning poet and author Kei Miller on writing without boundaries

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