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How should I approach writing low fantasy?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Peregrine, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    I will remove the undead.
    I just can not digest the idea of undead.

    Others have said some novels such as Swordspoint who seem to have no magic or barely magic at all.
    A fantasy can exist without magic, even if the reader has expectations that if its fantasy, it must have magic in it.
    So Demesnedenoire, your argument is invalid.

    I have a better question that fits more the title of this thread.

    I will rephrase the question: How should I approach writing non-supernatural/magicless fantasy?

    I can be a bit too realistic about fictional creatures, but I can not just classify my fantasy as science fiction.

    Why?

    Because the world I am creating is meant to represent an alternate Earth, not a alien planet.

    No creature in this fictional world looks alien.

    There are creatures in this fictional world that exist on earth too, such as deer, wolverines, badgers, foxes and goats.

    Would you classify my writing as science fiction if I told you I included unicorns, dragons, cockatrices and wargs? All originating from medieval European folklore, with the last being from Norse mythology.

    The four humanoid species I mentioned are not aliens, but are based on species similar to humans.
    They all look "human", no green-skins, no pointy-eared elves, no magical races, their differences are evolutionary just like the differences between a human and a neanderthal.
     
  2. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    The fictional creatures are not always identical to the mythology I draw inspiration from.

    Sometimes I subvert them.

    For examples, unicorns are not always white and the horn of a unicorn looks more like the horn of a one-horned rhinoceros horn than like a narwhal's horn.
     
  3. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    I think I believe something along the lines of this: “A novel set in a world with invented history, invented people, invented countries, and so on can be fantasy. It doesn’t have to be alternative history (particularly if it’s not closely based on an Earth country), and it doesn’t have to be science fiction (particularly if it doesn’t deal closely with science and the effects of science on human lives).” But still, what does this mean non-magic fantasy is?

    For me, non-magic fantasy tells the story of people interacting with the world around them in the same manner that we in our world would. The only difference? It’s not ours. It has an unique geography, cultural history, and flora and fauna, but it still essentially obeys real world physics. To my mind, the defining feature of non-magic fantasy is the quality of worldbuilding and how that worldbuilding serves as a proxy for deeper, better, or more complex understanding of our own. A fantasy story is at its heart an allegory. But it needn’t be magical or mystical, it can be realist. Not only having and obeying its own internal logic, but mirroring our own. It is a way to distance ourselves from ourselves while still being quite intimate.
     
  4. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Your latest question seems to suggest you want to write a fantasy story with no fantasy elements. I'm not sure how that works. But really I think you're getting hung up on the idea that it's a fantasy story. I think it's not. It's just a general fiction / maybe adventure story. Depending on the epoch it could be something along the lines of "Clan of the Cave Bear" or "Gormenghast".

    The main difference between your story and a fantasy high or low, is probably the lack of a world build that's needed. If there's no fantasy element you don't need to explain them and revolve the plot / characters around them.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    How can you be so sure that there are no fantasy elements, did you even read the first page?

    And did you even read the text on the third page where I said "I included unicorns, dragons, cockatrices and wargs?"

    Creatures such as dragons and unicorns are fantasy elements.

    Magic is just one of fantasy elements.

    It is what the majority of readers would expect, but why should someone be slaves to the readers and more importantly, slaves to the popular image of what fantasy should look like?
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  6. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    I can not believe that somebody on this forum actually said that my "medieval" world with dragons, dwarfs and unicorns is science fiction.

    You can't be that ignorant.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    It...depends. :D

    If I were writing such a story and wanted to market it as SF, I'd feel compelled to offer the scientific explanation of things or at least suggest a substructure of science. This would probably require outsiders to that planet or else individuals on the planet who know there is a scientific basis. For me, it's not really pseudo-science, or at least doesn't need to be. An entire planet infected with nanomachinery that automatically repairs some things (like the bodies of a particular race of creatures) may be far-fetched, but it's not beyond the realm of imagination vis-a-vis science. Or else, tiny organic "machines" (various organisms) could do this as a part of that planet's biosphere. I'm no scientist, so without research I'd be relying on some handwavium perhaps, heh.

    Without that kind of specific explanation in-story, the story would come across as fantasy and might as well be fantasy.

    Why dragons, orcs, and the like? In a SF story, perhaps the creators of these nanomachines or tiny organisms designed the world that way, hah, trying to recreate the worlds they read about in their youth.

    This may be a case of "Any sufficiently advanced technology...." :D

    So for me fantasy's not necessarily defined by whether magic exists, per se, but maybe it's defined by whether a scientific explanation exists in-world. Without that scientific substructure, whatever happens on the world would appear to be fantasy. Dragons, orcs, and the like without a scientific explanation? Fantasy.

    (Plus, there's an automatic association of those things with fantasy. But similarly, there's an automatic association of other things with SF. So even if those dragons weren't given a scientific explanation, having a rocket ship land on the world....well. We could be entering the realm of hybrid genres, hah. Depends.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  8. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    1) We do not attack other members on this forum. If you are unclear regarding the rules of conduct at Mythic Scribes, you may read them here: https://mythicscribes.com/forums/news-and-announcements/9-forum-rules.html

    2) There seems to be a lot of confusion on what you're trying to communicate. You have this story world formed in your head. The other members who are attempting to help you do not. Therefore...
    a) You should realize their understanding is not as complete as yours.
    b) They are trying to HELP you. Please respect that.
     
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  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Well, there is a point where tech becomes "magic". Sci-fantasy sort of stuff does this. But that doesn't appear the direction the story is going. I think the nanotech could work for undead if not called undead, LOL. In the OP's case, assuming there isn't some super important need to explain the undead (seeing as the undead thing is of questionable importance anyhow) I'd just write it. There's no need to explain why there's undead, just do it. So I stick with my original advice, just write it. Write it straight, readers roll with it.

     
    FifthView likes this.
  10. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    That looks like a oversimplified viewpoint of what fantasy is or is not (through scientific explanation).

    I cringe when people treat magic like science.
     
  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I agree. Just write it. It'll come across as fantasy without the explanation.

    What threw me off is the OP's question of trying to explain undeath and how it spreads. That's like looking for an explanation in what was called a world where magic does not exist. ("Or, almost.") So it was like trying to find a scientific, or at least non-magical, explanation of undeath.

    Without that explanation, it would come across as magic, even if the magic isn't explained.

    I think there might be dueling impulses in the OP's general idea: Trying to kill all magic in that world while simultaneously using fantastic (fantasy) creatures.

     
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  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Hmm, I didn't argue against a magicless world, I just said I probably wouldn't read it. Write whatever you want, it is completely valid. Now you are writing alternate Earth/history, which is a particular form of fantasy, no undead (I think that's wise with this additional knowledge of alt history and evolution). I'm not an alt-history/Earth reader, but with that genre label you should be able to get better advice on how to appraoch the writing.

    My advice is still the same for writing it. Just write it. There isn't a different approach far as I'm concerned. You write it straight, treat everything as real, off you go. 90% of the scenes or more in many fantasies don't contain magic anyhow. I don't aproach anything differently if writing a western or a fantasy or a murder mystery (except of course genre conventions, there must be a murder to solve in a murder mystery, heh heh, and there must be suspects, twists, red herrings, etc).

     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  13. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    Deleted comments due to disrespectful nature.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 19, 2017
  14. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    I told, that I gave up on undead, so undead do not matter now, and of course I also think that the existence of undead is a magical thing.

    To me a dragon is not magic, they are not made of magic, its a two-legged winged reptile that has the ability to breathe fire.

    I include only biologically plausible animals, only those that can work in real life, for example a four-legged dragon is unrealistic, but a two-legged is realistic.

    You concluded that magicless world can not coexist with mythical creatures, they can coexist with each other because I never include unrealistic creatures such as hippogryphs, bull-men and mermaids.

    There are creatures from mythology that can work in real life, you know, by evolution and biology.

    MYTHICAL CREATURE =/= MAGIC or MAGICAL

    A mythical creature doesn't necessarily have to be magical.

    Some mythical creatures exist because of magic, but mine don't.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  15. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    The idea people have that a world without explicit magic can't be fantasy is strange to me.

    So if the world has 500' monsters and human girl warriors who can beat those monsters in melee along with killing hundreds of men in a single day, tanking the equivalent of .50 calibur bullets to the head and city-shaking explosions, swimming from their world's south pole to another continent and other ridiculous feats like that, it would not be fantasy just because their abilities aren't attributed to magic?

    (My own works have magic, I'm just saying even without it, the Baeforce/what Girl Pride can accomplish in them is pretty fantastic)
     
  16. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    No, what I concluded was this:

    In the bit you quoted, I was responding to someone else and referencing your original post, where you were looking for an explanation of the undead. You've since moved the goal post by deciding that these undead don't exist in your world. But if you look at my first comment in this thread, you'll find:

    1. I did give a possible non-magical explanation of the undead. Heck, if you are now saying that these dragons are natural creatures that evolved that way, without magic, you could also conceive of natural microorganisms that evolved—not magic!—to make the undead possible.

    2. I did NOT say your story is SF. I asked what would distinguish it from SF. Plus, I said that your idea, without magic, would still come across to me as fantasy. Basically, if you were looking for explanations, you could tap into the way a SF writer might look for natural explanations for fantastic things; this is a tool or process you could use. This was the entire purpose of that comment. You've now given up on the idea of the undead; so maybe this is now unimportant.

    3. I've basically been saying all along that a non-magic world could still be read as fantasy. Isn't this what you've been saying?
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  17. kikyo

    kikyo Dreamer

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    In my opinion, if you include anything that is make-believe, then it is fantasy.
     
  18. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    I know the undead thingies are gone, but, ya know, there are lots of horror novels with undead, and no one refers to those novels as fantasy novels, or claims that the undead therein are necessarily magical. Of course, those novels are marketed as horror novels, not as fantasy novels, low or high or otherwise.

    But I'm with a lot of the others who posted here. Write the story. Then look at what you have and decide if it fits the genre you want it to fit. If it doesn't, then either modify the story so it does, or change the genre you'll market it under. Or be a renegade and market the novel in a genre that doesn't fit. Nobody forces a self-published writer to categorize her stories a certain way. It's just that readers will expect certain things from a story depending on how it is categorized, that's all.
     
  19. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    And I still stand by my original post... it must serve the plot.

    I don't give two hoots what your world is. What is your plot? What is the point of the story? Once you have that figured out then you build your world around it. Why would you spend forever worrying about what sort of animals fill your world and if it is high or low Fantasy if none of it matters to your plot?
     
  20. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Spoken like a true plotter. :)

    Some of us enjoy world building. I started keeping notes on my invented world settings (yes, plural) back in the 70s. I have notes on populations, flora, fauna, local holidays/festivals, landmarks, politics, history, etc. I did this because it was fun for me.

    Now I have these rich settings that I can take advantage of in my stories. There were still some bits I had to flesh out for my WIP, and some things I rethought about my settings, but having all this info helped me define my story's plot in a way I wouldn't have done in a vacuum.
     
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