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When Does Fantasy Become Too Fantastical?

Jackarandajam

Troubadour
On one end of the spectrum you have the Stormlight Archives by Sanderson; about as fantastical as you can get, with very little outside of human nature conforming to our reality.
On the other, you have GOT or Abercrombie's stuff, where alot of what you read could be medieval fiction rather than fantasy. All mentioned pull off Fantasy nicely, because all of the authors mentioned spent grueling hours on worldbuilding and being consistent.

It's a sliding scale of "how difficult the world is to explain" vs. "Your ability to explain it".
If you aren't careful or are unfamiliar with technique important to complicated worldbuilding, there's a good chance you won't pull it off, but that doesn't mean your idea is too complicated or "too fantastical."
It just means you've got some footwork to do.
 

Jackarandajam

Troubadour
A great learning tool for technique, btw, is On Writing And Worldbuilding (Volume 1.) by Timothy Hickson, and his YouTube channel HelloFutureMe.
Can't recommend his stuff enough, it's glorious.
 
Actually, it is explained. At the time when Harry gets hit by the Killing Curse, he has two souls in him - his own, and also a piece of Voldemort's soul in his scar (which allowed him to talk to snakes and also sense Voldemort's emotions). That baby-like thing at the station? It is a piece of Voldemort's soul that is in Harry's body alongside his own. So the reason why Harry could survive this killing curse is because his soul was basically shielded by Voldemort's; and when he wakes up, it is Voldemort's soul that is gone from Harry's body, not Harry's own.
Oh, i didn't know that! That actually kind of makes sense.
 

scink

Acolyte
It really depends on the imagination of the writer and the ability to convey that to the reader. There is purpose in all written work and the author wishes to convey a complete work. If the painting is to convey the meaning desired by the painter then the content can literally take on any representation. Similarly any aspect of fantasy contributes to the whole and therefore as long as it serves to achieve the writers goal there are no limitations. The biggest failure I find of most extreme fantasy is the lack of imagination of the creator. I have actually added dream extracts from my own sleep state that made no sense, as dreams generally don't, but the experience served to create a mood that somehow I was unable to describe from my own imagination. So I often favour less rules, less consistency, less explanation. Those things can burden the experience. It really depends on the way you paint with fantasy and for me a good watercolour lets the reader enjoy filling in the spaces from their own imagination.
 

Jackarandajam

Troubadour
It really depends on the imagination of the writer and the ability to convey that to the reader. There is purpose in all written work and the author wishes to convey a complete work. If the painting is to convey the meaning desired by the painter then the content can literally take on any representation. Similarly any aspect of fantasy contributes to the whole and therefore as long as it serves to achieve the writers goal there are no limitations. The biggest failure I find of most extreme fantasy is the lack of imagination of the creator. I have actually added dream extracts from my own sleep state that made no sense, as dreams generally don't, but the experience served to create a mood that somehow I was unable to describe from my own imagination. So I often favour less rules, less consistency, less explanation. Those things can burden the experience. It really depends on the way you paint with fantasy and for me a good watercolour lets the reader enjoy filling in the spaces from their own imagination.
So I agree with using less rules (soft worldbuilding is lovely) and less explanation (show don't tell is great advice, and soft worldbuilding/magic systems are almost by definition less explained), I'd disagree with "less consistency," depending on what you're trying to do. There is a difference between fantastical and nonsensical. Lewis Carrol wrote some great classics by leaning on a lack of consistency, but there's a reason they aren't oft cited as pillars of the Fantasy Genre; a lack of consistency breeds absurdism. If that's what you're going for, great, but to build another world there has to be rules, even if the rule is "every time someone uses magic something different happens."
If things aren't consistent, readers can feel lied to. It's kind of the same reason the Deus Ex Machina is generally looked down on as a story tool; "you didn't make it previously clear that was an option, therefore I didn't know i could expect it, therefore it feels contrived."
While you can introduce interesting new twists and developments at will along the way, too much lack of consistency kind of takes the "building" out of "worldbuilding."
 
As we all know, with fantasy the possibilities are limitless. But is there a point at which the fantasy elements in a story are so fantastical that they become ridiculous or distracting?

In other words, is it possible to go too far with fantasy? If so, how do you know when you've crossed that line?

When I write I often ask myself whether what is happening is realistic. We consider something to be ridiculous or unbelievable because it makes no sense accordingly to the rules of the world we live in.
When you create a fantasy setting, you're likely to also set rules, either at inception or as you go. That is what creates the "realistic" of that world. Assuming you don't bend the rules or create new ones that negate the previously established of YOUR WORLD, then you'll identify what is "too much" pretty easily.
In our world, the idea of a human flying by batting their arms is ludicrous at best, but in a fantasy world, who knows.
 
Lewis Carrol wrote some great classics by leaning on a lack of consistency, but there's a reason they aren't oft cited as pillars of the Fantasy Genre; a lack of consistency breeds absurdism.
What he wrote was dream logic. Literally. Both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have an "it was all a dream" ending.

That doesn't work for fantasy genre, either. A good fantasy genre story keeps us in its world. In some cases, the fantasy world co-exists with the real (Harry Potter, Narnia), but then there has to be a clear divide: we know when we're in one or the other, and while the protagonist may return to the real world, they do it by literally returning, not by waking up from a dream.

I suppose you could say Oz goes either way. In the movie, it was all a dream. In the book, Oz is as real as Kansas, and Dorothy really went there. She was missing, not out cold on her bed.

So, really, making it all a dream is a cheat. Even if it's the logical, by the rules of our world, way for those fantastic things to happen.
 
And for my own writing, I'd say it's about keeping what can and can't be done consistent, and the characters' actions consistent with that. I find myself paying a lot of attention to that, not just for the magic, but for the other rules (social structure, for example). If on page 10 we're told that x is allowed but y is not, the characters can't suddenly be doing y on page 60 with no consequences. Or let's say the magic using character has a cool, quick way of sending messages, but now suddenly they're in a crisis and rushing the message they need to send to the post office and praying it gets there within the usual two weeks. Why didn't they just use their magical way? Either I can't use that scenario, or I have to build in a reason why using magic isn't feasible this time.
 
The movie Tenant. High Concept Sci-Fi about time travel stuff. Didn't see it, but from what I hear it was hard for general audiences to follow.
Interstellar also does weird stuff with time, but audiences generally understood what the movie wanted to say.

Media is a language. The function of language is to communicate. You can get away with weird, obtuse ideas in a movie, if the audience understands what's going on.
 

AlexK2009

Dreamer
As we all know, with fantasy the possibilities are limitless. But is there a point at which the fantasy elements in a story are so fantastical that they become ridiculous or distracting?

In other words, is it possible to go too far with fantasy? If so, how do you know when you've crossed that line?
I think it comes down to one thing. How well they manage to keep your suspension of belief up. We can swallow quite a bit as long as the world runs on it's rules and sticks to them, well, then that's the only sticking point. If through magic you can sail through space on a giant nautilus as a ship and it sticks to it, well, I'll suspend my belief for it. But if it violates the rules, then I won't. That's really all it is for me.

Hmm.. Looking at the replies here I can see a spectrum from say Alice through the looking glass - a fluid world with few rules (Alice cannot fly or suddenly start talking Swahili for instance) to fully developed worlds where the rules and everything else are all explicitly laid down.

I would class Alice as fantasy. In another realm Mr Fox's song Aunt Lucy Broadwood tells a short story with just about no rules. That is probably not a fantasy story. Google the words.

In the end it comes down to your definition of fantasy.
 
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