Guest Post: Would You Take Real Advice From A Fictional Character?

Can you actually learn something useful from fiction? Or does the responsibility for imparting knowledge sit solely in the arena of its non-fiction cousins?

A story’s purpose is to transport you to a different time and place, to inspire, to entertain, enlighten and challenge. But how do you feel about a novel where a character jumps off the page, gets in your face and is determined to teach you a thing or two? Do you dismiss it as the author taking creative license through the ramblings of an imaginary character with no discernible connection to reality or do you consider it as a potential source of useful advice? I guess what I’m asking is, “Would you take real advice from a fictional character?”

In the new novel, eloves me, eloves me not, the protagonist, Kayte Wexford, sets out on a journey to find Mr. Right, venturing into the unfamiliar world of online dating. At the urging of her happily married best friend Chloe, Kayte agrees to try it. Kayte also learns that her other dear friend Roman considers himself a bit of an online dating aficionado. He’s used it for years and is pretty familiar with the ins and outs – what works and what doesn’t. In fact, he might even be described as a serial online dater. So Roman quickly steps in to guide and mentor Kayte, providing her with tips, suggestions, and rules from his personal rule book (Roman’s Rules of Online Dating) to help her maximize her potential for her online dating success.

When writing this book, I went back and forth as to whether I would feature Roman and his rules so prominently.  I considered whether or not including them muddied the fiction waters. I did end up leaving them in because I thought that they added a dimension of authenticity to the story, to Roman as a character, and they provided the reader with some lasting advice that may well stick with them long after the details of the story are forgotten.

Here is just a small selection of the advice espoused through Roman’s Rules of Online Dating:
  • While the words you use to present yourself are important, there is nothing more critical in your profile than the photo. 
  • Have at least 2-3 chats with someone before meeting them.
  • Make sure a friend, colleague, neighbour, someone you trust knows the details of your meeting.
  • If you’ve been on the site for a few weeks (or months), you may need to refresh your profile to get noticed.
  • Once you’ve met and been on a date or two, or three, you need to be wary of the return to the cyber relationship. 
Roman shares 13 rules in total with Kayte throughout the novel, delivering them one at a time and only as she needs to learn them. Her experiences then help to contextualise them. You’ll find the full list and their detailed explanations scattered throughout the novel and in list form on the book’s websiteIf you’re curious about trying online dating or have actually done it, see if they resonate with you.
Regardless of your thoughts on online dating, how do you feel about an author taking this approach - injecting lessons, tips, and hints into their fictional stories? What other examples can you point to where you’ve actually been both entertained and informed by a novel? Would you like to see more or less of this in novels of the future?

In delivering real advice through a fictional character, is there a risk of challenging the definition of fiction and having it appear too real? Or do you feel it adds authenticity and depth to a story that helps to better engage the reader?

Giveaway! Please leave a comment to enter to win 1 of 2 eBook copies of eloves me, eloves me not. Winner will be chosen at random on Friday, May 3rd. Please include your email address or social networking account so we can get in touch if you win. Good luck!