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  1. Headintheclouds
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    Headintheclouds Member

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    Combining Fantasy and Realism

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Headintheclouds, Mar 13, 2011.

    For the past six years, pretty much all I have ever written in fantasy. I love fantasy, and I love writing about magic, imaginary worlds, ect. However, as I've gotten older I've also wanted to explore more 'real' issues in my stories that are relevant to everyday life. And by this I mean serious issues that affect real people. I don't just mean trivial type issues I sometimes see explored in fantasy/realism books, especially those for younger audiences.

    So my question is how would you go about exploring these real life issues in a fantasy type story, without subtracting from the fantasy element, but also without subverting the importance of these issues.
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Robin Hobbs "Assassins" series does a great job at handling a gritty believable world, and every day issues as well integrating the fantasy elements into a believable whole. Guy Gavriel Kay also does this in a nice way. As well as the SciFi writer Connie Willies in among others "The doomsday book".

    I think you write it by integrating the fantasy element in a believable way into the world, and then you just don't focus on them. You focus on the every day issues, and just let the fantasy element affect them to the degree that it is logical.
     
  3. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Slight off-topic here, but Robin Hobb booooooooores the everloving Christ out of me. Especially in her first book.

    And on-topic: you just... do. Why would it be different to exploring issues in literary fiction? Sure, the morals are different, and the history, the culture, people's beliefs. Once you know those, you can start... exploring away.
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think SF/fantasy/horror has an unique opportunity to highlight every day issues. Make a tale about mortality by including a immortal as a contrast. Or highlighting or view on people born with disabilities by including a magical cure. Or ageing, by a story where you can stop ageing.
     
  5. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    And yet fantasy can easily fall into allegories and preaching.
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it most commonly used among SF then fantasy.

    I think it a matter of how you do it. If you just include it and then write to explore the consequences in this change of premise for the characters and overall themes.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write high fantasy and find it fairly easy. I just write my characters as normal as possible (OK with a gazillion bizarre quirks and not all are human). Then they fall into normalish relationships and come into normal situations. My world is pretty modern in time which helps.

    One book has a couple of father and son relationships that are not working, grief when his father died, a feeling of not being good enough and fitting in with his family, sibling rivalry, acne, abuse, teen pregancy, a couple of characters come from a home with two dads, one has body image issues, they have problems with teachers bullying them at schools, I have a young girl feeling lonely being groomed via the internet, difficulty dealing with homework, discovery that everyone has lied to the MC, issues with the media, he discovers his brother and uncle are gay and have been in long term relationships. With a backdrop of magic and government corruption lol

    Socrate's and Nate's first day is under fantasy (It's the start of what is now a novella which starts with the nerves of the first day at school and is where he meets his best friend, Socrates' is a very lonely little boy he maybe a Prince but he is abused and neglected, Nate is in a very loving foster home being parented by an exiled elemental abbot who is my equivelent of an ogre)- I have a variety of bits and pieces under novel. They are not exactly where my books are now but give you an idea. (Novel excerpts I think are - Angus!!, What About Us (an experiment), Bad Romance, Socrates' Children - Which beginning and Men Dancing).

    My second book discusses how one can be good and unselfish and noble but perform an appalling 'evil' act, whereas one can try to stop that act for selfish 'evil' reasons. It also has some teenage issues, and discusses the grief of losing a partner. There is also a love square involving four men - one is believed to be dead and isn't, one looks like the former partner and the other is the start of a new relationship. My MC gets himself into knots over that having been welded to one man for over a century.

    For me magic is a backdrop it is so normal in my world that it just happens naturally with no real mention or notice, when a situation crops up that requires it is used. Even that can be used though when one situation goes wrong - one of my men thinks his lover has died, he has already lost two wives and can't face it. Magic can't help character in many situations it can only help physically not emotionally or mentally. This is where I am finding first person present tense a huge bonus for fantasy you can't ignore reality when you are sat right inside a characters head.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You should read books that are categorized as magical realism to give you an idea of what kinds of things are possible in such books. There are quite a few South American writers who fall into this category.
     
  9. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    Make the focus your characters and their struggle. Don't put the magic or fantastic elements in your spotlight. Sure, maybe the people you're working with have all kinds of abilities and encounter unimaginable things every day, but as long as you portray them as real people, their problems will seem real.

    It's kind of vague, but you just need to 'write realistically'.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The fantasy setting is really the backdrop for the characters and storyline--and whatever issues the writer wishes to explore.

    I guess it depends on the 'issues' but telling the story through conflict and struggle, characterization, symbolism--everything you would use if writing the story in a modern/non-magical setting. Use subtle parallels and analogous situation if necessary.

    All of that said, be wary of 'preaching' or 'getting up on a literary soap box.' Doing so will likely make the whole attempt fall flat.
     
  11. JohnKPatterson
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    Another author you can check out is George R. R. Martin, and his "Song of Ice and Fire" series. These are fantasy novels with very restrained magic (a little too restrained, in my opinion), and most of the conflict, character development, and story momentum arise from the characters themselves, as well as the political intrigue and dire situations they find themselves in. It can be frustrating when Martin makes certain moments so gritty and cynical that they start feeling contrived just to punish the characters, but I stay with the series for those characters' incredible depth and his talent as a storyteller.

    As others have said, you can just let the force behind your story depend on the characters, and not the magic or the fantastic world around them. That way, they become more than cookie cutter figures wafting their way through the setting and storyline. Even if your world and plot are well-developed, readers will stick with the novel and remember it mostly for the characters you populate it with.
     

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