Realism and the Fantasy World
I for one am guilty as charged. I LOVE fantasy worlds, and there is no short way around it. Never for too long can I be deprived of a great series of books, movies, or television that tell stories of other worlds, that give us real characters and gripping plots.
And then I realized that the only way to truly satisfy the itch of fantasy world fandom was to create a fantasy world of my own.
This led me to wonder how I could create something real, so that my characters would be real, so that my story would grip readers and take their emotions for a tumble. ’Science’ is what our culture accepts as real. It is the glue, the fabric of our reality, and when I thought of this I had the epiphany that if I wanted my world to be real then I wasn’t creating fantasy- I was creating science fiction. Suddenly my fantasy world, the characters, and the plot became very real.
I find cultures and the planet earth so interesting and beautiful, and because of this connection to our world mine had the chance to be something authentic. I came to share the same connection that I do with Mother Earth with Mama Stethoss. I realized that earth itself is a fantasy world, rich and abundant in wisdoms, cultures, and ancient mystery. Who knows what truly is possible within the context of our reality? Two hundred years ago the television was of fantasy, and now it is real. The human being, a bi-pedal mammal, has achieved flight. Perhaps then fantasy and science fiction are one in the same. If you look at your fantasy world like a planet, and your species’ like animals- their cultures in tandem with the ecology and geography of the planet, magickal capabilities based on the laws of the interdimensional universe and consciousness- you can create something with so much reality and depth that it is real within your mind. This realism, I believe, is necessary to have as a groundwork for your fantasy, because if it is real within your mind (as real as you and planet Earth) then this will translate onto the page. In your world, if you desire, beings can explode with light and fog can be a sentient being, and it is not fantasy, it is science fiction, because in your world those things are very real and possible. And whose to say they aren’t in ours?
This groundwork is also essential if you want your characters to exude the same realism, and of course you want that. If your characters aren’t real then how can you write them? If your characters aren’t real then how can you form a gripping story that is based on their lives? When your world is one of well fleshed out cultures, geography, biology- if your fantasy world is real- your characters have a template upon which they can live a real life, and experience real emotions. They can make real decisions and a real story can unfold; they can have real doubts, struggles, and aspirations- but none of this can exist if the fantasy world is not real. Otherwise your characters are only husks of what humanity really is, and your writing will not have substance. Humanity is the substance that all writing craves- it is the thing that makes you heart swell and sink. Humanity is the substance that a real planet with real cultures and real people breeds.
The world is the bass drum that creates a structure for the people- the cultures, and the characters in your fantasy. These cultures and people are what create the structure of your plot. People breed struggle and struggle is story. Real people make decisions that at times call morals into question, and at times spark a greater conflict than they could have anticipated. If your characters are real people, with vice and virtue both, the decisions they make will mean something, and thus so will the plot. If you love them or hate them for who they are you will live or hate the things they do. You will love or hate the things they make happen and in turn you will love and hate the plot. It is the vice and virtue that makes it real- it is contrast that creates beauty, and in real people, living in a real world, there is real contrast. Look at earth humans- we experience extreme joy one day, and then extreme sorrow and anger and hate the next. One of us might dine as a king while millions others starve. This is what makes the experience of humanity so beautiful, heartbreaking, and real, and in turn is what will do the same for the humanity of your fantasy world. It is this realism in your people that will give them cause to act, causing real plot to unfold.
Ponder this as you weave your fantasy realm. Create a world that is not only fantasy, but science fiction within the context of its own reality. You will be surprised at how real everything becomes for you, how invested you become in your characters, cultures, and stories. This investment is what makes being an author so fantastic, and it is the investment that will make your stories vivid, real, and gripping to the minds and hearts of those who read them.
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