Before I started college, I’ve read many warnings by established and well-recognized authors concerning creative writing courses in universities and how they basically suck the creative part out of creative writing. Before I started college, I laughed off these warnings, thinking, “That might be true for other universities, but I’m sure my university won’t be like that.”
Well, after today’s Creative Writing class that’s mandatory for me since I’m an English major with Creative Writing and Literature concentration, turns out the established and well-recognized authors weren’t kidding.
For my Creative Writing class, we had to write a short story in the first person. Minimum number of pages was 3, the max was 4. You could write about your own experiences, but “remember that this is a creative writing class.” Oh yeah, and there was one other restriction: No fantasy. Which meant no Harry Potter or Hunger Games like stuff. This was a challenge for me because 99.99% of my short stories that I have written so far in my free time have been fantasy based. With fantasy out of the picture, I couldn’t come up with anything right away. So I went on my tumblr blog, searched through my “WRITING REFERENCE” (yes all caps) tag. After getting inspired for 12 hours by the memory loss prompt and trying to write something with it and that not working out and trying to look for a new one, I settled on the “Imagine your character waking up one morning and they had become famous almost overnight.”
I worked a lot on this story: making sure tenses were consistent, the main protagonist was interesting, all that jazz. It was also the first time I’ve written original fiction that was purely comical. Not dark and heavy with some light humor in the middle like the majority of my stories. I mean, it was only the first draft and I would have to revise it anyway after I read it out loud in class, but for the most part, I thought it was pretty good.
So, today, I read my story out loud after the guy sitting next to me read his and everyone commented on it, including the professor and teaching assistant. Afterwards, the professor told everyone to look it over and come up with something to say about the story. Meanwhile, having noticed some errors along the way, I was writing suggestions to myself on what could be revised. Being a perfectionist is such a struggle.
After that period of silence was up, most people had good and constructive things to say. “Voice was consistent.” “I wish you had told us what he was famous for sooner.” “Very engaging.” ‘Wait, did his mom really run over those reporters and the main protagonist REALLY not notice?!” “Nice foreshadowing in the beginning.” “The main protagonist is a bit passive. Try to make him more active with the plot.”
All of the comments I understood and took into consideration.
And then there was this one comment by this one kid who always wants say something in a not so constructive light and gets away with it because “well, that’s just how he is”.
“I was thrown off. The story wasn’t very realistic to me.”
And unfortunately, that was the one comment the professor decided to preach to me on. Well, maybe not preach. That’s a bit harsh sounding. I guess “advise me on” would be a better phrase. And as the professor was describing to me ways that I could make the story more “realistic” (which turned into a huge tantrum about the President of the United States, Russia, and Steven Spielberg), I was becoming quite irritable, and not because I really had to use the bathroom at that point.
Basically, the only way I can get away with not being “realistic” is to make the story a satire. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make sense.
And I thought to myself, “Woah woah woah. Realistic? We’re talking about realism in a creative writing class?”
Now, this isn’t an issue about whether I can handle criticism or not. I can handle criticism, especially when it comes to writing and speaking in public. Although, accepting such criticism from my peers is a different story because 99.999% of the time, they honestly don’t get it and I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Oddly enough, though, people younger and older than me get it usually.Go figure.
Realism. In a creative writing class.
Now, I do understand that there has to be some realistic elements when writing about humans. After all, if people can’t relate to their own species in novels, you’ve done something wrong. And when dealing with professions like acting or being a doctor, you definitely have to be realistic there.
But when it comes to becoming famous?
So many unrealistic things have happened made people famous. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a prime example of this. And many writers have been made famous through unconventional, almost unrealistic means also.
Not to mention all those movies that exist where people are famous through unrealistic means.
Yet I’m expected to be realistic, even though many an individual has been made famous because of “unrealistic” means.
Sure, I will definitely keep that comment in mind when I’m completing my rewrite, but will I actually make it more realistic instead of turning it into a satire? Probably not. Because it’s not a satire. And reality is relative.