Terry Pratchett said something AMAZING about fantasy: “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” Mind. Blown!
The ability to fantasize is something unique to humans. Animals are very focused on their basic needs (survival, reproduction, etc.), but humans are able to go beyond that. We can fantasize and dream up amazing things.
However, it’s important to understand that what’s believable to some may be utter nonsense to someone else. Why do you think there are so many people who have never picked up a fantasy novel? They may be lovers of historical fiction, but they scoff at fantasy because of the “unrealisticness” of it all.
Your challenge, then, is to write a story that is both believable and realistic!
Of course, there are going to be elements of the fantastical (impossible, improbable) in the stories, so you will be asking readers to suspend disbelief to believe, for just a moment, that your specific fantasy could be real. How can you do that?
By making everything else as real as possible.
The book has a lot of fantastical elements to it: metal provides people with a sort of “magic”, and there are three unique magic systems. It’s also set in a totally different universe, with creatures that don’t exist on our world. A lot of suspended disbelief, right?
Well, what about all the “realistic” elements in the book?
- Lawlessness in a very Western setting
- Political intrigue, maneuvering, and backstabbing in an Industrial Age city
- Lawyers, cops, bounty hunters, thieves, murderers, beggars, and men who use their wealth to achieve their ends through any means necessary
- Men and women with strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and failings
- A society based around a set of rules, with different religions that guide their actions
See what I’m getting at? Though many of the elements in the book are “fantastical”, there is so much realism in the book that it’s easy to get lost in the realistic elements. Once you are drawn in by the realism of the story, it’s much easier to believe the more unrealistic elements. After all, it’s just a story, right?
To write believable fantasy, there needs to be plenty of elements people are familiar with: love, loss, death, hardship, courage, suffering, challenges, obstacles, family, society, etiquette, religion, ethics, morals, and the list goes on. You have to ground readers in elements that they can recognize from their own lives. Once you’ve done that, it’s much easier to guide them gently through all the unrealistic, hard-to-believe elements.
My suggestion: use a character to ground them. Give them something to be interested in, but make that character someone your readers can relate to. Make him/her human: flawed, strong, weak, confident, insecure, jealous, romantic, or any other aspect of our personalities. Once you’ve built that foundation and gotten them to believe in this character, it’s easier to add on everything else that is “fantastical”.
Andy Peloquin–a third culture kid to the core–has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.
When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn’t looked back since.
Andy’s first attempt at writing produced In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent. He has learned from the mistakes he made and used the experience to produce Blade of the Destroyer, a book of which he is very proud.
Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.
His website is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings–along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet.
He can also be found on his social media pages, such as: