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Deadpan inclusion of modern and mundane (colloquial sense) things in the fantastic

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Electric Bone Flute, Jan 2, 2021.

  1. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

    We expect certain mundanities in fantasy. Clothes, even if we make them cool. Food, even if we create unthinkable banquets. However, what about the "stranger" mundanities, either because we associate them solely with the modern world, or because they simply are not thought of as often.
    Sometimes this is done for a joke. Bureaucracy seems to be a go-to. In fact, I was inspired to write this thread because I mentioned in passing an "Administration of Polishing Spiders" existing in a universe where spiders are highly revered, sought after, and provided to everyone by the government. But maybe it's too go-to (a case of the former, we associate it with modernity, not the latter, it's unthought of). What are some other mundane ("boring") elements that you've put in your universes that people usually don't think to include? Bonus points if it wasn't for humor.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

    Taxes. Even a dragon will get taxed if it's in the territory of a nation. Not so much for humor as it's just mundane and no one escapes it. If Eld's undead were more cooperative, they'd even get taxed for the havoc they wreak. Hells, not even bandits escape them. Infrastructure and architecture also, as at most points the world's rebuilding itself and the repairs, costs and time to reconnect, make trade routes again and even rebuild or build new towns and cities is simply enormous and get's a passing comment from time to time.

    Lawyers too, the best ones you can get on Eld are bridge trolls. Having to deal with sums, exchanges, local and river laws, troll bridge code and also be able to know the exchange rate of coin to goat. So them and high elves are usually shoo ins for that fun job. The drow have a tourism administration too, for those who want to travel to Paradise and other nice (mostly tropical) tourist spots they hold.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  3. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    I'm going slightly offtopic here, okay? But not too much. Now, an area of mundaneness I try to incorporate myself are those bits of life experience that can make the story feel like the real deal. For instance, in "Insomnia" a Stephen King novel I'm currently stuck in, it is mentioned how each city has areas that are the kid's territories, whereas other areas are the old geezer's hang-out spots. In another of his novels, a woman is sitting alone, having a bitter-sweet coming-to-terms with her gone youth. I think those bits of authentic details are King's core strength. And I feel it's often lacking in fantasy, which often feels a bit like endlessly recycled tropes.

    My main character has an extreme split between how she feels and the persona she act out in front of others. This is something I have noticed with myself to a less extreme degree, so I thought it could be used as a bit of exaggerated realness.

    I need my main character to get into some kind of conflict with a kid. So I thought I pick that mundane real-life scene where an adult with little experience with kids fails to grasp the difference in mental development between, say, a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old.

    One bit of mundaneness I'm rather proud of is that I have made my main character an introvert. To me, this just feels more relatable.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  4. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

    Doing your accounts. If you're hiring out your services then you need to keep a set of accounts so that you know who's paid you - and how much you owe in taxes. A banking system - no-one in their right mind carries huge sums of cash with them on their travels. Some form of bill of exchange is better, but for that you need a functioning banking (or at least money transfer) system. Stonemasons and the like - because someone has to build and maintain your castle. Accidents - even in medieval Europe people got knocked over by carts and carriages, or fell off ladders, or twisted their ankles, or fell off their horse. Farriers - where else do you buy your horse? Mucking out your stable. Drunks getting thrown out of bars late at night. A couple of bored soldiers doing their sentry round on top of the city wall. The various stalls along the streets and in the squares. Horse shit and mud in the streets. You can call these mundane elements if you like, but I prefer to see them as essential background details which help describe your fantasy world and the way it works. And they can be used to drive some of your plot elements.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  5. Don Coyote

    Don Coyote Scribe

    I can't think of too many mundane things that are strange in a fantasy setting, unless it's a magic item mimicking modern mundane items, such as a magic powered cell phone (which is nothing more than an encrypted, full duplex radio).

    But there are strange and unique ways to apply the mundane. For example taxes. Nothing more normal than taxes and tolls in a fantasy story. Robin Hood is the world's most infamous tax evader and toll collector. But taxing a dragon. That's something I never thought of before. I can only imagine the intestinal fortitude of the sheriff serving a dragon with a writ to pay taxes or forfeit its holdings and be hauled off to gaol.
    LAG likes this.
  6. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

    Oh, I love it when modern tech is implemented in otherwise impossible ways using the things from the setting.
  7. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

    That's just the scenario of a short story I've been working on. My dragon and his knightly buddy across the border are miffed by rising tolls when they go to visit each other and are seeking a way to circumvent them. Without tax collectors showing up at their doors.
  8. Adela

    Adela Scribe

    This. He's also the local bartender and blacksmith. Had to have it when I began to wonder where all the glasses were coming from. Am pondering if the characters (who are all vegan, they're animals, I couldn't have them eating each other, don't ask. No, it's not what you think.) will start to ferment drinks soon. Hey, I'm cobbling this together as I go.
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I immediately go to the Ministry of Silly Walks, and my brain gets stuck in the skit with John Cleese. After that, I am no help.

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