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Realism in Fantasy and my Tiger Pit

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Futhark, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    I am a systems orientated person. I like to know the why’s, wherefore’s and how-to’s. Parameters, extrapolations and exceptions. Expected inputs and outputs. You get the idea. Now, I’m of the opinion that a work of fantasy can be too realistic. If it reads like a text book then I would rather read history because truth is often stranger than fiction. I don’t want to create that. I want fantasy elements. Powers, monsters, magic. But I wanted it to make sense, to be able to explain all of it. So I did. To describe simplistically, I introduced one fantastic, whimsical, unexplainable event in the distant past and extrapolated from there. This provided me all of the parameters I needed to create my fantasy world, from the magic system to gods to aberrations. Sure it excluded some things I wanted, but that’s how the cookie crumbled.

    My trou de loup (excuse my French (and my bad pun)) is that now I’m creating characters for this fantasy world, they (or rather I) don’t see it as fantastic. Everything is explained. I know they don’t know that, but I’m struggling to bring the wonder back to the show, because I know how the magician does his tricks beforehand.

    So the question is, how do I put the genie back in the bottle? How do I put the wonder and awe back into the world?
     
  2. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    Typically with magic systems, when the system is well know, its one breaking the system, or trying to overcome to do an impossible feat that the story becomes about.

    If that cant happen then i think love of characters or love of the world needs to carry you through.
     
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  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Vala

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    Make one of them a stranger [literally or metaphorically]. See the magic of the world through naive eyes.
    I know someone that worked at a beautiful cathedral. They would only ever moan about rude tourist and people climbing on things to get a good selfie... The wonder and beauty of the place was lost on them because it had become everyday.
     
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  4. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    It’s not that the magic system is well known to the characters. Knowledge has been lost, rediscovered, applied in different ways. Different cultures are completely unaware that all magic comes from the same source, and they each have their own approach and beliefs. To use an analogy, my problem stems from the fact that the characters believe that the sun passes through the underworld each night, but I know the earth revolves around the sun. I can’t seem to get back into the mindset of their belief.

    I have been thinking about doing a journal of sorts from the POV of some random adventurer/explorer.
    Then I think it’s a waste of energy.
    Then I think “Your not writing anyway, why not do it.”
    Then I think “You think too much.”
    Then I think “I think, therefore I am.”
    Then I think “That’s not helpful. At all.”
     
  5. Kalessin

    Kalessin Dreamer

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    I know you already explained yourself twice, but I'm still a bit confused. Can you put your problem into more specific, practical terms that I (or we) can directly grasp?

    Are you saying that you feel like your perception of your character's perception is misaligned? Cupofjoe and pmmg have put it well in my eyes, if I'm understanding you correctly, so I must not be.

    So your characters believe the sun passes through the underworld. Does it?
    Whose awe and wonder is flagging, specifically? Your characters aren't supposed to feel awe about their everyday understanding of constants, unless they smoke something psychoactive or spend good amounts of their time exploring what things really mean. The way the sun works in our world is pretty fantastical if you really think about it.

    Sure your characters *know* the sun passes through the underworld every day, but have they seen it with their own eyes? Have they met the guy who pushes it?

    I still believe I'm missing the mark, but it sounds to me like you might benefit greatly from stepping away from this story for a bit. Do you believe that you're a bit cold on something that should impress your readers?
     
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  6. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    Umm, yes?

    No the sun is the same as ours. The physical aspects, except for the one element I added, of the universe are the same as ours. It is my wonder and awe that is flagging. I know what you mean by constants, but what I’m talking about is those rare mystical, magical moments that the characters experience. They think they are meeting a god in one scene, not an everyday occurrence. I know it’s not a god, that it used to be human, and I know how he got that way. I’m jaded I guess. But the characters are supposed to be filled with awe and wonder. I’m having trouble disconnecting from me, the world builder, the All Knowing, and being able to see this fantasy world through the eyes of the characters again.

    You’re probably right that I need to step away, or at least approach from a fresh perspective.
     
  7. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    “And you aren’t proofreading before you post.”
    “Seriously? It’s one little mistake. Why are we doing this? Aren’t the meds working anymore?”
    “We’re bantering, not arguing. The meds are working fine.”
     
  8. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    This is crazy, we all know the sun is flown across the sky in a chariot at day and resides in the temple of the sun god at night. I thought this was a serious subject.

    Well, I don't know how you escape knowing all the details. It seems to just be the fate of a writer to have a story in their head for long periods of time, unable to share, until that magic day they complete the story. All along the way, you know all the answers. I suppose, if you want a sense of wonder for yourself, break your magic system and don't tell yourself how it works anymore.

    Perhaps this is more losing the story? That sometimes happens too. Interest wanes, and the story starts to become a chore and not a joy, and it is time to move onto something different.
     
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  9. Kalessin

    Kalessin Dreamer

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    Imagine meeting a historical idol of yours unexpectedly, or in analogous circumstances to your fantasy-characters meeting this god. It won't be exactly the same, but you know how analogies go.

    I want to just say "imagine it," what your characters are going through, but it feels like the distillation of that is that you do need to step away. What you're describing, at least to my mind, sounds like a specific manifestation of losing interest in the story, or at least one aspect of it. I probably don't need to say this, but I could be massively mistaken.

    Edit: Really this is kinda what we do, right? You gotta let go. Imagine.
    Maybe religion sticks out in your mind specifically, because I'm sure your fantasy story is riddled with things you have to suspend disbelief about. Imagine thinking this is a real god. How would you react if you met a real god, and imagine that you never had this conviction that the world followed essentially rigid mechanics to manifest this elegant structure.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
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  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Are you still at the front end of the story? That is, are you at the story idea stage, or planning stage?

    I ask because I have much the same issue. I know all of Altearth's history. I know the (pseudo-) scientific explanations for magical phenomena, explanations which Altearth will only discover centuries later. In the context of specific stories, they have all sorts of silly ideas about magic. At from that perspective, while there may be clever ideas I have, there's no sense of awe.

    I can't really get to that level until I am down inside characters. It's a bit like what an actor does. Somehow, during the performance, one becomes someone else, exists somewhere else, and one manages to ignore the audience, cameras, blue screen. It's the make-believe we did as children. I don't sustain it for long, but when I manage it, I do get ... not my own sense of wonder, but an appreciation for the wonder that character would feel in that moment.

    And honestly, I don't want it to be my own sense, because that's only one perspective. From my recently-completed book, I think of how my MC would react to a scene, with her more-or-less constant stream of internal commentary. But that's quite different from how my ogre reacts, which is with imperturbable stoicism, how my dwarf reacts, or the rest of them. I'll paint the scene, but I don't want it lit from only one light.

    And again, the only way I do this is by being inside the story, which means in the actual writing of the scenes. Until I get to that stage, it really is more abstract, more like playing with blocks, brainstorming. That has its own rewards, but doesn't have the sense of wonder. I doubt that a magician has the same look in his eye when he's designing the illusion as when he's presenting it. And that's ok.

    One other thing. Spend too long in the design phase and it can get a little dry and dusty. Start coding and let things blow up. You'll know you're having fun when you start cussin'.
     
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  11. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    Yeah, at outline stage. Basically I know who does what where, and what the end result looks like. Just tightening up plot points, filling in blanks in backstory, and staging relevant scenes. The last is where I’m coming unstuck.

    Thanks for all the comments, this has helped me decide to continue working on the bones of this story, but also step away and start on a new project. It’s far more whimsical, with vaguely defined parameters, so I can have Demi-gods, sentient mountain ranges, cocky dragons and every coloured goblin I can think of. I’ll find a broad premise for the story, then just start playing with the characters in this world. Goal; have fun, don’t overthink it!

    Thanks everyone.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Just make sure you have CMYK goblins, along with RGB goblins, and you'll be fine. :)
     
  13. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    Haha. Do you mean that some can subtract and the others add, or that some print while others do web design?
     
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  14. Futhark

    Futhark Sage

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    I’ve got the image of a bunch (mob, swarm, clatter; what do you call a group of goblins?) of office goblins sitting in their cubicles, wearing skinny jeans, hip t-shirts and thick rimmed glasses, all working on web designs stuck in my head now.

    Disclaimer
    Any similarity to what actual web designers wear, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the position and policies of Futhark Inc.
     
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  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >what do you call a group of goblins
    a scrum
     
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