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How "realistic" should a World be?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Shasjas, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. gerald.parson

    gerald.parson Troubadour

    So having elves, dwarves goblins, and orcs determines whats fantasy and whats not? kinda cliche dont ya think?
    Ever hear of A song of Fire and Ice? The presence of little green creature does not determine if something is fantasy, or "high fantasy".
    But to expand about what I was saying, you look at our history to see how things like cultures and turmoils developed and unfolded, how certain thing became predominate and others obscure. I guess it all depends on how deep you go into your world.


  2. I wasn't saying fantasy is defined by elves and dwarves, I was simply using them to illustrate my point because they are more commonly used, would my point have made more sense if I'd said gobblesnaffers and wiggleworts?

    To say that a good understanding of history and culture is not needed to be able to write a good fantasy would be ridiculous. But at what point does the search for historical minutae become obsessive? If you have spent twice as much time researching historical accuracy than you have actually writing your fantasy story then I think you have probably gone a bit too far!

    Like anything else in life, its about balance, too much insistence on minute accurate historical detail in a fantasy world is in its way just as questionable as a novel that is simply made up on the fly with no thought for simple practicality and believability.

    For example, knowing how far a horse can travel in a day and how much he can reasonably be expected to carry is sensible stuff to know, as is perhaps some idea of how to care for that horse. But to spend months researching everything there is to know about the history, anatomy and physiology of horses is probably getting obsessive unless your main character is a farrier! At the end of the day the horses are only there as a means of realistically getting your character from a to b (this assumes you even have horses in your world).

    If people want to waste more time on research than actually writing then that's up to them - its their life. But to insist that every writer should do the same is wrong. The original poster wanted to know if it really was necessary to do a mountain of historical research to create a historically realistic medieval world, then wrap it with some fantasy. And the answer is no! not if you don't want to, all that research is optional not mandatory. Check out your information to make sure its not silly and impractical of course, but if you don't want to go into detail about how your horses were cared for then don't.

    BTW I got about a quarter of the way through the game of thrones and got bored, not a series I can be bothered to read to be honest, shame I can't take it back and get a refund!.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I disagree, a little Some works require a lot more research and others much less. If you're writing about the life of a blacksmith, you need to do more research than others. But I do think there's some basics that every fantasy author needs to understand if just to avoid making some basic mistakes. The thing is, if that information was ever compiled with fantasy writers in mind, I think the time spent on that research could be squashed into a couple of hours.
  4. Which is why I said unless you were writing about a farrier with the horses example, but blacksmith ect would be just the same - its specialist so you need a bit more research.

    And yes wouldn't it be great to have all that basic info to hand as a single resource, it would indeed cut research times down considerably :)

    maybe a project our members could collaborate on? someone with basic horse knowledge could contribute simple horse care info, someone with swordmaking skills could provide basic info on sword-making ect. Not huge detailed essays, just the basic simple info that should never really be wrong in a fantasy novel. If people wanted more detailed info then they would have to do more research themselves!
  5. gerald.parson

    gerald.parson Troubadour

    I agree with you 100% You did a better job illustrating my point than I did. When I was saying that our own history provides us with a great amount of material, what I was trying to say is fantasy writers dont always have to follow the same cliche' molds for everything, they can look to our history to see how the political engine works, if their book is geared towards that. just as an example.
  6. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    After all, what really is important is not how realistic or unrealistic a Fantasy world should be: What really matters is that you feel comfortable with the world that you have created!! If you like a very realistic world and you want to make it as real as possible doing loads of research, that's okay- If you love truly fantastical dream-like worlds and that's what you want, then go for it!! =)
    gerald.parson likes this.
  7. Jess A

    Jess A Archmage

    Take it to a book exchange.
  8. I bought it on Kindle :(
  9. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    My novel's world is realistic in the sense that there's no magic or supernatural stuff (though there is still a belief in those things). On the other hand, I have dinosaurs coexisting with ancient African civilizations, and sometimes the people even ride them.
  10. Dark Huntress

    Dark Huntress Scribe

    A realistic fantasy...now what is wrong with that sentence? In my book, everything. The whole point of fantasy, to me, is the exploration of the authors imagination using the elements of magic or supernatural phenomena.

    When I read fantasy I am looking for an adventure that is not realistic. I want a world that isn't a identical reflection of the world I inhabit. I read fantasy to escape, to live the 'what if's, and to experience a realm where anything is possible.

    I love medieval fantasy as a setting only because it removes our technical world and allows me to live with dragons, in castles or be a commoner in a hamlet. I am not checking to compare this setting with actual history.

    The author need not impress me with how real his story is. I am not looking for that. Just show me the magic.

    If I want realism I'll watch the Discovery channel.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think maybe realism to the author and realism to the reader are different things. Certain things have to be realistic, from the author's point of view, if only so that the reader won't notice them amid the magic. Suspension of disbelief can only go so far; at some point, if you don't have a society that is realistic and complex - not in the magic but in the makeup - your readers start to notice.

    At the top of the list for me? Realistic human behavior, then realistically complex societies, followed by believable action and a realistic handling of logistical issues such as time and distance. That's what I mean by realism; I think that's what a lot of people here mean, too.
  12. void141

    void141 Dreamer

    In my opinion, the less real a fantasy world is, the better. Of course, the less real without compromising the story, and doing crazy stuff just for the sake of it. As a good example I will mention something that is not a book, but still is a good example - The Elder Scrolls game series. To me, Morrowind will always be ten times better than any of the other games partly because of its world. The setting in Oblivion and Skyrim (as well as the previous two games) is almost realistically medieval, and that is what makes those games inferior. Once again, this is only my opinion.
  13. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    I couldn't agree more, Huntress. By the way this last part is an excellent segue for me to remind everyone to chime in on my "WTF is up with the History Channel?" thread in the Chit-Chat Forum. :wink:
  14. Travisimo

    Travisimo New Member

    Personally, I try to keep mine within the pre-existing limits set by "real" nature.

    Of course, there are exceptions that might seem too amazing, but remain within the bounds of nature. Natural phenomena, like there are on Earth.... The people however, are different. Cultures are as alien as I can possibly make them, for example.
  15. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    I have read many similar tips and guides that all encourage a very realistic world. Then I read this. A Way With Worlds - Entire Column Listing I have read every single article, some more than once. What I took away from this was that the world needs to be believable. It doesn't matter how crazy the world is, if the laws of physics are all backward and strange, it still needs to be believable. That doesn't mean believable in the context of our own world but in the context of that world. What is I think is meant by believable is that aspects of the world need to be grounded in something to keep the reader and the author on the same page, hehe. It is the same way basketball players must all know the rules of the game. Imagine how confused people would be if all the sudden, a player starts kicking the ball like in soccer and scores seven points in one shot. All of the sudden the game doesn't make any sense by the rules established at the beginning of the game. Hence the rules, or world building, they are needed in detail so that when a difficult situation arises the characters don't start kicking the ball and score seven points. It is the details that keep the story grounded in the reality of the world. It is the rules that create a continuity of believability in the world.
  16. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

    Internal consistency is my watchword for realism. I know they are somewhat seperate, but if I take liberties or overlook something that isn't sensible, it should always be that way.
  17. Shasjas

    Shasjas Scribe

    thanks for everyones input.

    thanks for that link, it looks pretty useful
  18. Gwynneth White

    Gwynneth White Dreamer

    The first thing I thought about when I read your post was Terry Pratchett's Discworld. He didn't exactly stick to any known formula, did he? And think how brilliant it is. I sometimes think that we get too bogged down with what should and shouldn't be in a fantasy world. Why must it always be medieval? Why cannot it be futuristic - with out slipping into Sci-fi? I personally think that there are enough readers with diverse tastes who will lap anything original and well-executed.
  19. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    Whether a novel is fantastic or realistic, I prefer it sticks with one the whole way through. I don't mind realistic peppered with the fantastic. I also don't mind a fantastic story framed by a realistic one. There are some novels that drastically shift into the outlandish, and it leaves me scratching my head. When something is "too fantastic" for me to go along with, it's usually because the new development doesn't fit what I expect of the setting, the plot is too convoluted/idiotic, or the characters' behavior doesn't make any kind of sense. I'm okay with walking trees, flying castles, singing flowers, and talking dragons. Add a Starbucks into the mix, and I'm no longer on the same page as the author. Literally, because I'm rereading the last few pages trying to figure out how the hell that happened.

    I agree that fantastic worlds don't need to be humorous. I think it does a disservice to the genre to say so. I'd like to read books featuring bizarre, unrealistic settings combined with interesting, believable, relateable characters.

    I really don't see how there could be a cut off for how fantastic a world can be. I'd look at it as a balancing act between amazing concepts and timeless themes. As wondrous as the setting is, the basic story still needs to be one worth telling. There's a trend toward low fantasy with a basis in real world mechanics, but so what? Write something people connect with. It doesn't have to be on trend. It doesn't need to follow obscure guides written by people most of us never heard of. It needs to be your story the way you see it.

    This is only my opinion, and it may offend some, but I think those who dismiss certain fantasy settings as too fantastic or too realistic are missing the point. It's fantasy. It can be whatever we want it to be. The important part is how you tell it.
    Azeroth likes this.
  20. Author T.O. Goodwin

    Author T.O. Goodwin Acolyte

    A world from your own soul and mind is of your own design and yours alone and can be any form you desire. Never pay attention to so called proper form. It is not art worthy and certainly not world creation worthy. Tolken did a fine job intermingling worlds that were both magical yet set with the familiar such as he allowed for our worlds indeginous flora and fauna. This allowed for the reader to assimilate themselves into his stories by way of association. Great device for writing fantasy. It is my firm belief however, that when creating fantasy worlds one rule stands true and will always pan out in the writing itself. Always be true to your own style and inventions and create wherever your mind takes you. Technical stuff is for the editors and so forth to worry about. One just needs to write and create. That is all.
    Reaver likes this.

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