Monday, July 21, 2008

The Romanticizing of Street Life

I've noticed in my reading that many stories glamorize street life. They tend to shade over the bad parts somewhat and often I'm left feeling the characters are not authentic. I recall one book in particular that I was so shocked when the author brought up the character's past as having grown up on the streets, I wondered why I was surprised. It made me realize that there was nothing about this character that said they had led a street life. If anything, they were too polished and refined for that kind of history. It wasn't believeable and every time it was brought up again I was yanked from the world of the book and reminded I was only reading. It was almost as if the character's history was an after thought and a poor one at that.

A couple very interesting articles about the realities of street life and the mistakes writers often make when writing about life on the street that I was introduced to over at The Midnight Hour. I really enjoy reading their posts on writing.

The first article deals more on what authors miss about weapons and those trained with them and the second gives some of the finer details about how street life changes a person and the way they interact with the world.

This should be required reading for any author that wants a street smart character. As writers we always want the reader to believe the reality we give them, but if we haven't actually ever lived on the street or even known someone who has, this can be a very difficult thing to recreate. Hopefully, Kaigou's writing will help someone out there be a little more believable when they write about street life and weapons.

There's really very little about street life that's romantic, but I don't see writers not using it as a background. Sometimes it's what really works for the story, but it can ruin a story if not done well.


BernardL said...

Your post reminds me of the trouble Ian Fleming had in his choice of weapons for James Bond. There were always readers who critiqued Fleming's use of one or another, and even the holster for a particular weapon. When I read the series as a teenager, I couldn't wait for Fleming to quit talking about what weapon or why and get to Bond using it. :)

Virginia Lady said...

You make a good point. There is definitely a balance between too much info and enough for believability. The trick is in finding that balance.

Charles Gramlich said...

You're absolutely right. There are so many things about any kind of life that just won't ring true for someone who hasn't lived it. I've never been a street type person so that would be hard for me to right, but I've seen folks mess up by setting their character as being from a farm, which I "do" know something about.

Virginia Lady said...

Thanks for stopping by, Charles. I think the key is thorough research and making sure you get first hand advice from someone. That alone can be difficult, particularly if you're writing about gang life and you're from some picture-perfect suburb.