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What kills believability in a constructed world?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Teramis, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't believe an author has to explain the rules of their magic system. I do believe the author herself should have some idea of the 'rules' that govern the system, even if just a vague sense. This helps to ensure the logical consistency of magic in the fantasy world. If the consistency isn't there, readers will sense it. But once you establish boundaries, narrow or broad, I think most readers will go along with what you want to do.
     
  2. WyrdMystic

    WyrdMystic Inkling

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    Yes, agreed. That's what I should have said. In fact, lets pretend that I said it :D
     
  3. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Okay since we're talking about magic system failures, and where you stop reading a book.. I have to weigh-in here on this one.

    I loved Brotherhood of the Wolf. LOVED IT! The problem, was I put it down, because I hated the magic. IN that world, you can bestow one of your traits on your friend, say I'm going to give Steerpike all my intelligence, to make him a superpowered smarty-pants. Well... while he has my trait, I'm essentially a drooling idiot who can't think at all. SO this main bad guy, has THOUSANDS of these traits stored up in him.... too overpowered, too unbelievable... had to stop reading. Too bad, I loved the characters.
     
  4. WyrdMystic

    WyrdMystic Inkling

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    Never read it, but of the sound of it I would of though someone would snap after taking on two or three traits, let alone a thousand.
     
  5. Grimbold

    Grimbold Dreamer

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    For me, its the little things...I'm not the type to pick out if someones eye colours have changed, but i mean little things as in a character saying something you don't think he would have said. That, and writing thats 'to' fantasy or not fantasy enough...
    E.G: "And lo the elfling cried out in vain and valor"/"Alright mate wheres that dragon then?" ect ect
     
  6. 071095se

    071095se Acolyte

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    In non magical matters, I highly dislike things that defy the laws of physics. Though if a valid magic reason is given as why this is so I will be very happy e.g. floating mountain ranges
     
  7. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    I'm going to throw in with the crowd that think that lack of consistency kills a world, because it does so for me. But then again I'm pretty strict in the Low Fantasy territory to overt use of magical elements or lack of logical/realistic explinations also makes me question the world, and which can lead to my disbelief overtaking me and probably turning it into wishing harm on the world.
     
    B. L. Cadle likes this.
  8. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

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    For me, it is overpowered characters that kill a story for me. I am happy with disc shaped worlds on elephants, or sparkling vampires if you must (tbh, there is over 100 variations of vampires in our cultures, very few of them even touch blood!) Again, there is nothing appealing to overpowered characters.

    Let's say for example that someone is very smart, very clever and is a dab hand at magic. Why would you wish to read about the "struggles" of a super-dooper character, who barely has to sneeze to finish a 10v1 bar fight! Despite having all the power of the world, the character is still human (or elf, dwarf, smurth) and it is worth noting that they can still be killed by desease, a stab in the back or a shot to the face! Otherwise, there is no point in struggling on with the story, the character certainately isnt.

    x
     
  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Ahem. Comic books. Your post is debunked. :p
     
  10. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

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    Uum no, it isn't. To begin with, comic books are a platform, not a genre. Nor are they renowned for literary excellence. Artwork wise, by all means, they far outstrip any novel I can think of with regards to graphics and artwork. Besides, there are plenty of comics that do not rely on overpowered protagonists

    By raising the flag of comic books, I assume you mean the generic comic book hero. Just because characters I described exist, it does not debunk my point. Infact, it adds weight to the argument. It grows tiresome to see (with a little bit of reading) superman solving a situation once again with......super strenght!!!!

    x
     
  11. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Let's not play at semantics. I don't see the point.

    Depends on what you mean by "overpowered." Not all comic book heroes are as god-level as Superman, but in comic books it's usually a given that the hero will survive and triumph. And if they don't, they'll come back from the dead later and try again. The only real argument against overpowered characters is that they have a certain guarantee of victory. Comics has that in spades regardless of the character's actual power level. For the most part, mainstream comics have a status quo that is maintained pretty rigidly. Every so often a big "event" happens to push the reset button. Those that do otherwise are usually being artsy or different and (as far as I know) are a niche-within-the-niche, or a super-niche if you will. Most people who read comics (again, as far as I know) read things like Batman and Superman. After around 70 years, those characters are still with us despite being practically (or literally) bulletproof.

    Does it really? Grows tiresome to who exactly? The legions of comic book fans out there? Certainly not, otherwise the books wouldn't sell. If it were as tiresome as you say, nobody would read it, or go to see the movies. Avengers is now one of the top grossing movies of all time, and it had a DeM ending and everything. (Although your mileage may vary about whether or not it was a "true" DeM.) "Literary excellence"? What does that even mean? By what rubric do you judge this and what qualifies you to be the judge? I believe that, at bottom, the only thing that really matters is whether the audience enjoys the work. If that is true, something was done right, overpowered heroes or not.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think it is safe to say that what kills believability in a constructed world is going to vary from person to person. For some, over-powered characters might do it. For others, lack of a logical framework for magic. For a third person, it might be Greedo shooting first. Who knows.
     
  13. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    How would you define overpowered?

    Do you mean a character like Superman but without that pesky kryptonite allergy? Do you mean a character who is both a genius and able to kick butt in a fight? Is it dependant on the setting, or is there such a thing as too powerful no matter the circumstances?

    And what defines power itself in this? Magic and super strength and immortaility? Or can it be mundane things like ridiculous wealth or being born into a royal family?

    (This is absolutely NOT a disagreement. I don't like overpowered characters, either. Just trying to understand what other people mean by that.)
     
  14. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Two points:

    1) This thread was started to ask each individual their opinion on "What kills believability in a constructed world?" Everything that a poster states is, by the intent of the thread, all personal opinion and bias. There isn't really a need to argue anything that anyone writes.

    2) What kills it for me is the aura of protection that surrounds the author's favorite character. You'll know who that character is by how he always survives every life-threatening situation, even if that character isn't equipped to handle it.

    Also, poor world building.
     
  15. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

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    Well all of the above are good examples. I think a better phrase would be without flaws, or their strengths greatly outweight their weaknesses. I don't just mean in terms of abilities and skills, but socially and morally too (although these details can be flacked away another time). For instance, imagine a knight who has done great deeds (could be, these deeds are far exagerated), but as a flaw, he is a disgusting womaniser and racists. that to me would be a flaw that could be interesting in a story.

    That's a very good point, completely in agreement with this.
    x
     
  16. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    But if they died wouldn't the story be over? :D
     
  17. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Could you elaborate on what you mean by strengths outweighing flaws?
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2012
  18. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    You can still limit yourself to threatening situations that the characters are equippped to reasonably overcome. :p
     
  19. WyrdMystic

    WyrdMystic Inkling

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    Not neccessarily. There's no rule that says the main character has to live. Generally though, you can expect the main character to come out victorious and that makes the tension etc an illusion. Tension therefore comes from the fact that the reader is focussed on the current scene, the past is in the back of their mind, and the ending doesn't need to be worried about yet. Unless your reading a crime novel in which case the one armed butler's lover's secret twin sister's plastic surgeon's uncle's photographer did it because....your mum!.

    I’ve thought about this subject a bit more and have reached a conclusion – a very cop out conclusion.

    Because there are so many different reasons why different people may lose faith in a fantasy world - the reason is the reader’s unwillingness to suspend their belief, or release their grip on the aspects of reality that they feel most important on an individual level (whether it’s physics, logic, geography, sociology etc.).

    No-one can cater for all tastes, so the more pertinent question then might be – what would make you lose faith in your own constructed world? You can guarantee there are a million (more) other like-minded people out there. Cater for yourself first.

    PS – comic books rock and there is no such thing as a graphic novel, just an insanely, awesomely long comic book! :)
     
  20. WyrdMystic

    WyrdMystic Inkling

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    Reasonably equipped? Not for me. Average Joe cutting down a tree with a chainsaw is nothing…..a toothpick, however, that would be something!!

    That’s an extreme, but my point is this – if it is reasonable for the protagonist to overcome the situation, then no heroic feat has occurred. Even in realist fantasy you will have situations where you could use the term ‘Against All Odds’. This is because either – the situation is unreasonable or the characters are ill-equipped, or both.

    Nowadays the question is less ‘Will they survive?’ and more ‘HOW will they survive this time?’
     
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