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Making Sense of the Imaginary

from a scene in City of Ember
via Pinterest
     Okay, you read my post yesterday and you felt a little confused.  Your story involves people that can fly and a fish that can talk.  It doesn't make sense, you say, and yet...that's the way a fantasy story is supposed to be, isn't it?  Am I restricting authors' imaginations to the ordinary parameters of real life?
     No.  The fascinating thing about fiction literature is that it doesn't have to be realistic in order to make sense.  Strange but true.
     There are two things required in making a fantasy or sci-fi story "make sense."
1. Have a panel of experts explain it.
     This is easy.  If the world is to be destroyed by an exaggerated natural disaster, have a panel of experts use important sounding words to convince everyone that this is a possibility.  If your hero has just landed in a world where everybody flies, have some child explain this in a matter-of-fact tone (while looking at your hero like he is crazy for not knowing this already).  Your type of "expert" will vary depending on your story.  You only have to make it sound convincing.
2. Stick with the laws of your world.
     This may require you to make a list on a separate sheet of paper, but, if you have decided that the world you have created is to have different laws than the world we know, you should keep those laws in mind. 
     In our world, we have a law called "gravity".  What goes up must come down.  We can overcome gravity temporarily with force (for example, the force of jumping will propel you up into the air temporarily, and then gravity brings you back down) or with another law like the law of aerodynamics (this is how we fly a plane in spite of gravity). No matter where our story takes us, we are subject to those laws.
     If you have different laws in your world, define them to yourself and then make sure your plot follows those laws.

    Does that make sense?

via Pinterest


  1. I have read fiction books or watched fiction movies that didn't make sense.
    One was a little-known movie about some exaggerated natural disaster. After watching it, I understood why no one had heard of it. It was ridiculous and not even remotely plausible. But as I watched, I started looking for WHY it was so ridiculous. As unbelievable as it was, I have seen other movies who could have been just as unbelievable -- but those movies somehow set up the scene and explained everything with their experts so that the audience felt like this story was realistic.
    And I have read other stories that were so full of contradictions that I felt confused. They stepped outside of natural laws, but then, because the author didn't think through his new "natural" laws, the book was full of things that didn't make sense. Sometimes the laws worked and sometimes they didn't, and I as a reader had no framework to walk on.
    So there is a way to take the unrealistic and make it believable. It requires convincing portrayal, a pre-examination of the new "laws" by the author, and then adherence to the laws through the book.


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