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View Full Version : ENOUGH WITH "Since this contains fantasy then anything goes"



NinjaStylerobot
2012-02-18, 04:58 PM
I am so sick of hearing "Since this contains ______ its alright for crazy and stupid things to occur because it isn't realistic".

Its a lazy excuse. Lets say a setting contains Dragons. Just because it contains Dragons does not mean that the setting is any less realistic then our world. Its a DIFFERENT reality and it has its own rules. If those rules are contradicted or brocken they still are brocken.

Its really annoying.

edit:

Im talking about things like plot holes or "a wizard did it" that are OK because its fantasy.

Goosefeather
2012-02-18, 06:49 PM
You can't just have 'the same as our world but with dragons', though.

Dragons are impossible with our physics, so you have to change physics to allow their existence. However, changing physics in that way has other consequences, most of which an author won't go into, because of the sheer complication it would cause. This is more the genre of hard sci-fi. With fantasy, at some point you pretty much have to draw an arbitrary line between what's allowed and what isn't. Especially when magic is involved.

Bit Fiend
2012-02-18, 07:25 PM
Actually dragons are rather unlikely but not impossible. Sure, there is a size limit which is way below what you often see in fantasy but aside from this you can incorporate many draconic features in real world. Their fire breath for example could result from an extra methane tank in their body that stores gases normally reserved for farts. With a "tooth" in the front of their mouth with a surface akin to or made of platinum powder they coul ignite the methane without an external flame. The stored methane would also provide buoyancy and increase the size limit for flying. /OOT

Lord Raziere
2012-02-18, 09:21 PM
I just assume that if its a different universe or world, it inherently has different physics, assume any deviations from our universe as apart of whats possible in that one, then shut up and enjoy the story.

Nerd-o-rama
2012-02-19, 12:57 AM
I actually completely agree, especially because I know you're talking about Dominic Deegan.

In order for a story to be well-written, its setting must operate on some kind of consistent manner, otherwise the author is just making it up as he goes along (which is fine for certain types of poetry, but defeats the purpose of a narrative). Even if the rules aren't exposited upon, they need to be in the author's head. If all magic - or any other device - can do anything as the plot demands it, there's neither tension nor immersion. Especially if the protagonists have access to it, since that eliminates conflict.

factotum
2012-02-19, 02:00 AM
You can't just have 'the same as our world but with dragons', though.

I don't think he asked for that, though...all he wants is for fantasy worlds to run on rules, even if those rules are nothing like the real world. So, you don't establish in one chapter that the Evil Lord Snobob cannot be harmed by cold iron weapons, then have his ear chopped off by a kitchen knife later on...

Mr.Silver
2012-02-19, 05:18 AM
Very much agreed. The thing with suspension of disbelief is that it requires a degree of internal consistency (and also that the fact the setting has elements that require the suspension of disbelief needs to be established early in the narrative).

NinjaStylerobot
2012-02-19, 06:47 AM
For example:

"Well I know that a character suddenly was able run 300 miles in a hour with no transport with no explanation- the setting has trolls. Thats no very realistic, so shut up and enjoy"

Does not fly well with me.

Helanna
2012-02-19, 08:48 AM
Indeed, I know what you're talking about. The problem is, most of my friends don't. Conversations about books go like this:

Me: "And then Character X somehow managed to cast Spell Y, even though earlier they explicitly said it was impossible, and never explained it besides 'he's just that awesome'. It was totally unrealistic!"

Them: "It's fantasy, it's supposed to be unrealistic."

Me: "THAT IS NOT THE POINT"

It gets really, really frustrating.

Nerd-o-rama
2012-02-19, 12:25 PM
A useful word for this is "verisimilitude", which means "the appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability" or "something, as an assertion, having merely the appearance of truth". Things that are self-consistent and believable within themselves without necessarily accurately reflecting reality.

Saph
2012-02-19, 04:11 PM
Yeah, I agree. "Don't think about it, it's fantasy" is fine if you're reading a story, but it just doesn't cut it if you're trying to make one.

For a story to work there has to be some degree of internal consistency. An author can get away with messing up small things, but the bigger the inconsistencies get the more of a problem they become. The more inconsistent the world is, the harder it becomes for the reader to anticipate what's going to happen, and the harder it becomes to create any kind of tension or drama.

Example: your favourite character in a story is getting attacked by a guy with a knife. You're worried because:

(1) the character's in danger of being stabbed;
(2) getting stabbed causes physical injury;
(3) physical injury can hurt or kill.

The tension comes because the reader can connect the dots. 1 leads to 2 leads to 3. And the reason the reader makes that connection is because they assume that at some fundamental level the story world works the same way as the real world (such as: getting stabbed is dangerous).

If the writer starts to mess around with those fundamental laws, the reader can't make the connection anymore. If there's no causal relationship between stabbing someone and that someone being injured, then a knife isn't a threat - it's just a piece of scenery.

Lord Raziere
2012-02-19, 04:46 PM
oh yeah, if your trying to make a fantasy setting, be consistent like a freaking robot, leave nothing unexplained to yourself, establish clear rules while at the same leaving room for flexible, clever ways of doing things within those rules, present the rules to the readers, then intentionally make things that seem to break those rules, then point it out in story: "hey! he shouldn't be able to do that, that contradicts Rule X! how is he doing that?" and voila, you have handed a mystery for the readers to try and figure out. now you can dole out clues and such for them to pay attention to.

then finally? reveal how the "rule-defying thing" was actually self-consistent all along in a clever manner. :smallamused:

NinjaStylerobot
2012-02-19, 10:18 PM
Exactly.

So people that think "Its mgaic-deal with it"- STOP IT.

erikun
2012-02-19, 11:29 PM
I find both sides of the common argument silly.

On the one hand, just because a setting contains magic does not automatically imply that it must contain a Races of Always Bad Dudes* and that the evil mastermind must steal the evil artifact to take control of the country that he already controls through a puppet government.

On the other hand, there are times you should just accept that when a story tells you something can happen, that it can happen. Just because a setting is not 100% random plot convenience all the time does not mean that it must be 100% realistic or become unbelievable.

*And why is the race always all male, anyways? I'd think that the Always Evil Ladies would be pretty bad, as well. For that matter, it is almost always a seperate species rather than a human race, unless you're getting into Saruman genetic cross-breeding, and then it becomes more questionable.


The tension comes because the reader can connect the dots. 1 leads to 2 leads to 3. And the reason the reader makes that connection is because they assume that at some fundamental level the story world works the same way as the real world (such as: getting stabbed is dangerous).

If the writer starts to mess around with those fundamental laws, the reader can't make the connection anymore. If there's no causal relationship between stabbing someone and that someone being injured, then a knife isn't a threat - it's just a piece of scenery.
A good example of this is a lot of fantasy literature with easy healing magic or quick character healing. It is kind of hard to feel that Conan is threatened by the punk with a knife when he regularly takes on axes, fireballs, and various monsters.

Similarly, any story that has the protagonist conveniently saved from any danger will fall into this, because regardless of how dangerous the situation is, the readers will count on Convenient Plot Contrivance #591 to show up and resolve the senario.

Fri
2012-02-19, 11:40 PM
Actually, the most important thing is neither 'it's fantasy so anything goes' or 'fantasy must be realistic'

It's 'magic A is magic A'

It's world consistency. It's what important for either realistic, fantasy, sci-fi, any series. No matter if it's low fantasy, crazy high fantasy with gods walking on earth, Sci-fi with nanotechnology, anything.

If you've shown that magic works this way, then magic should work that way for the rest of the book. If you've shown gravity works that way, then gravity should work the same for all the time. If you've shown that nanotech have rules, you should follow it. And if you want to subvert it, it should be treated accordingly, like if we know gravity work this way, and suddenly we find someone can defy gravity.

If you've shown that a character can bleed to death from a single arrow wound, then similar wound should be treated in roughly similar way for the rest of the setting.

It's really why I much prefer Bartimeus Trilogy than Harry Potter for young adult series about kids with magic.

warty goblin
2012-02-19, 11:49 PM
Funny, I've about swung around to something like the opposite viewpoint. As far as I can tell chasing logical consistency or realism beyond a basic first or maybe second degree consistency check neither advances the story or develops the characters. I'm here for your story and characters Author Person, and am only interested in your fantasy waffle insofar as it affects the tone and atmosphere of said story. I care not one jot for your tenuous logical justification of said, particularly when you insist on throwing the narrative emergency brake just to make sure I understand how thoroughly you thought this all out. If a character can't use their super-magic to solve a problem, let me know concisely, and get back to the story, and if a character can, please do the same.

Mind you I find I can barely stand to read fantasy anymore. Way too much time spent explaining the stuff that doesn't matter. It's like going over to somebody's house for dinner expecting an evening of stimulating conversation, and instead getting a three-book lecture on how they refinished their floors using a dwarven finish originally developed as a bikini wax treatment for a subspecies of lesser blue-faced marmalade dragons.

I find this very sad, as I genuinely like fantasy. I just don't need so many details.

tensai_oni
2012-02-19, 11:55 PM
Goblin, what you are describing is a different brand of bad writing. Good writers don't go "guys guys! This thing that happened, it is consistent with my world because X, Y, Z! Isn't that awesome?!" in their works. They keep the consistency to themselves - when an element contradicts what was set up earlier, they change it or not introduce it in the first place, but when it doesn't, they do NOT lampshade this fact. For the reader/watcher/player, this consistency is invisible until they start to think about it.

Also sidenote, it is not necessary to implement all rules and elements of your setting from the start. In fact it makes you drown in needless minutae. Just make sure that as an author, when one element is introduced then it stays consistent.

Fri
2012-02-20, 03:15 AM
Indeed, you must've totally misread what I wrote, since your example is absolutely different than what I explained.

It's not "X has just happened, and eventhough it looks like it doesn't, it actually totally consistent with the rules that I've explained, because of Y," which Y is annoying long explanation that breaks versimilitude.

If they have to justify it, it fails already.

Just show that your world is consistent, by having consistentency in your story.

And of course, yadda yadda yadda, you can break rules sometime, etc etc. But as that one joke I once read said, there should be a license for author or something, so that only licensed author can use 'it's just a dream' ending.

Nerd-o-rama
2012-02-20, 12:42 PM
Just show that your world is consistent, by having consistentency in your story

Oh God, this. This so much. Constant and flagrant violation of "show, don't tell" is even more annoying than making crap up as you go along, since the latter can at least still be entertaining in its dumbness. It's a bit of a different issue, though.

But yeah, it's not so much that everything should be explained in excruciating detail - it shouldn't, unless it's the last chapter of a mystery aimed at very dumb readers, or the author wants to milk some extra money out of his novel by publishing a setting supplement for obsessive people. It's that things should actually follow from what has been previously established. That's the basic idea of a narrative, not just reality.

Story Time
2012-02-20, 11:02 PM
...I can't really put into words how important it is for a narrative to be consistent. Fri is essentially right on the par. But there are some places in fantasy that transcend logic. The suspension of disbelief is part of some important aspects of fantasy. I do like having...some predictable determinism in general fantasy. However, if everything starts working because of a mechanism rather than super-natural inclusion then some of the beauty of what fantasy can be is lost.

But, yes, verisimilitude is an anchor-point for normal characters. There should be intelligent cohesion mixed liberally into mystical cosmology.


...just my few thoughts...

Weezer
2012-02-20, 11:18 PM
oh yeah, if your trying to make a fantasy setting, be consistent like a freaking robot, leave nothing unexplained to yourself, establish clear rules while at the same leaving room for flexible, clever ways of doing things within those rules, present the rules to the readers, then intentionally make things that seem to break those rules, then point it out in story: "hey! he shouldn't be able to do that, that contradicts Rule X! how is he doing that?" and voila, you have handed a mystery for the readers to try and figure out. now you can dole out clues and such for them to pay attention to.

then finally? reveal how the "rule-defying thing" was actually self-consistent all along in a clever manner. :smallamused:

So become Brandon Sanderson? Got it.

Brother Oni
2012-02-21, 09:22 AM
Actually dragons are rather unlikely but not impossible. Sure, there is a size limit which is way below what you often see in fantasy but aside from this you can incorporate many draconic features in real world. Their fire breath for example could result from an extra methane tank in their body that stores gases normally reserved for farts. With a "tooth" in the front of their mouth with a surface akin to or made of platinum powder they coul ignite the methane without an external flame. The stored methane would also provide buoyancy and increase the size limit for flying. /OOT

Actually there's an old cartoon/book called Flight of Dragons which goes into a plausible origin in some detail.

It starts off fairly plausible, for example the draconic myth of overall invulnerability deriving from the less likely but just as plausible 'reality' of the dragon having a stupidly well armoured head combined with reptilian 'mesmerism' of prey (often found in snakes), resulting in people believing that dragons are invulnerable (no, you're trying to hit it through the best armoured part of its body, you nimrod).

Dragon flight is derived from eating limestone and dragons having a 'craw' or gullet pouch where the limestone is ground with ingested gemstones, much like birds eating grit to grind seeds. The calcium in the limestone reacts with the hydrochloric stomach acid to form hydrogen, thus combined with the dragon physiology of having hydrogen float bladder type organs, gives it flight.
This hydrogen can then be expelled and ignited via a sparking mechanism in the teeth (in the cartoon, they use an electricity producing organ called thor's thimble in the roof of their mouths), thus giving rise to their fire breathing.

All perfectly reasonable until you realise that it's not calcium that's reacting, but calcium carbonate, which definitely won't produce hydrogen gas (carbon dioxide, water and calcium chloride), but the the author handwaves it away with 'reaction and metabolism control'. :smallsigh:

I briefly looked into hydrogen bioreactors, but they're very low yield and requires sunlight as energy input, which would make for quite an interesting dragon. :smallbiggrin:

With regard to your methane tapping version of dragons, I don't think methane gives the same amount of 'lift' as an equivalent volume of hydrogen, but given digestion and rotting material gives rise to other toxic compounds, such as hydrogen sulphide and putrescine, could postulate an origin to a poison gas spewing dragon (black dragons in D&D breathe poison gas, right?).

All this isn't including scaled up versions of exisiting large terrestial reptiles such as the komodo dragon which relies on its poisonous bite to bring down its prey (or rather the prey to die from infection due to the sheer amount of nasties in its mouth).

*Listens to the screams of the catgirls*

Nerd-o-rama
2012-02-21, 09:43 AM
Green dragons are the ones that used to have the poison gas. I think it was listed as chlorine, of all things. Switching to acid in 3e was redundant with Black dragons, but sensible. Now metallic dragons have debuff-breaths which I guess are a kind of poisonous gas...

Bit Fiend
2012-02-21, 09:49 AM
With regard to your methane tapping version of dragons, I don't think methane gives the same amount of 'lift' as an equivalent volume of hydrogen, but given digestion and rotting material gives rise to other toxic compounds, such as hydrogen sulphide and putrescine, could postulate an origin to a poison gas spewing dragon (black dragons in D&D breathe poison gas, right?).

All this isn't including scaled up versions of exisiting large terrestial reptiles such as the komodo dragon which relies on its poisonous bite to bring down its prey (or rather the prey to die from infection due to the sheer amount of nasties in its mouth).

*Listens to the screams of the catgirls*

Also if they could somehow incompletely "burn" the methane to store carbon monoxide and use this as a breath weopon (while haveing a shielding mechanism that prevents that nasty stuff to get into their metabolism of course), that would be really something. It's like spewing cyanide, just more so. :smallamused: