Friday, April 15, 2011

Writing Believable Fantasy in the Modern Era

Fantasy writing has many elements. For many modern fantasy constructs, science fiction nibbles at the edges and creates cross-genre fiction. Traditional fantasy of the Lord of the Rings type with medieval settings populated with fantastic beings on Earth is little different to advanced stellar societies with equally fantastic beings and strange powers, in my view. Only the times and settings are different. Yet one is often labelled 'fantasy' and the other 'sci-fi' -- although hard-core sci-fi fans would probably define a more scientifically defensible genre.

And of course magic has always featured strongly in 'fantasy' stories. If not overt magic, then certainly implied magic with the popular notion of shapeshifting, werewolves, vampires, paranormal beings and similar unscientific, if not popular, notions in the realm of the suspension of disbelief.

The trick is to construct a world view that is 'saleable.' That is, you have to convince your readers that within the context of your story the things you relate are entirely believable and logical. This requires that you construct a world with all the believable elements in place. Some should probably be recognisable from existing culture, and some can be way out there and fantastic. Bridging the two extremes enables readers to grasp some familiarity while they are coping with the fantastic. Then, of course, you have achieved 'suspension of disbelief,' which is the foundation of much, if not most fiction. Ultimately you have to tell a good story with great characters as well -- which is somewhat obvious.

The country of Animaia in my novel ANIMAIA is a fictional world on Earth but across an alternative history. It is also a technologically advanced country. I deliberately avoided the medieval setting. I wanted to write a fantasy novel that was undeniably 'fantastic' but verging on the scientifically defensible, even if at a stretch. This depends to an extent on one's culture and education of course. In Animaia, a small number of people can talk to animals telepathically. These people are called Anima. I've hinted at a genetic mutation over a very long period of time. Yes, fantastic for sure, but perhaps not as fantastic as shapeshifting or the magic of materialising objects out of thin air or teleporting or apparating. (Did Harry ever pass that apparation test?)

Publication is nigh!

1 comment:

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