One of the quotes on my website is from Tom Clancy. He’d answer the title question in the affirmative. He’s probably referring to thrillers in that quote, but most good fiction has to seem real. A few genres—horror and fantasy, for example—are exceptions, but even hard sci-fi and historical romance novels should seem real enough—the more believable, the better. I often see events from the latest tweet from our president to NYC crime scenes (they’ve become eerily similar in some ways) and say, “I couldn’t write anything like that because readers wouldn’t find it believable.” But maybe I’m limiting myself because readers don’t want believable?
Consider my arch-villain Vladimir Kalinin, first introduced in The Midas Bomb (he appears in many books). He’s a bit of a narcissist and psychotic, but I gave him a human side in No Amber Waves of Grain. Mr. Trump has no human side, yet Trump is real and Kalinin isn’t, although he seems more real to me than Trump because the latter seems to live in a fantasy world. When you consider real people like Charles Manson, Kalinin actually seems pretty tame.
Also consider Mary Jo Melendez of Muddlin’ Through. She represents what’s great about immigration in America (unless you’re Native American, you’re an immigrant or descended from immigrants). So do many of my characters. Bill Franklin, a gay man, and Kalidas Metropolis, a lesbian, play important roles in The Midas Bomb and Full Medical, respectively. None of these characters is real, but they also represent groups that many people don’t want to be real and would rather not have in fiction either.