View Full Version : Realism vs Fantasy
December 7th, 2002, 03:04 PM
Personally, I'm one of those sticklers for realism, where possible. I find the distinct lack of even a basic attempt at realism in a lot of fantasy work to be disappointing.
Although I can quite accept there is a place for it, I never feel there's enough mature end work that seeks to bring an entire reality into existence, rather than a simple daydream.
You know what flaws I'm talking about - cities with no history, peoples with no culture, 21st century healthcare, anachronistic behaviours and technologies...etc.
So if this is a direction you'd like to take your own writing [and my expression of personal taste here is simply that], then here are my main Mediaeval Resources links [I hope some of them prove useful - I personally favour paper resources, but all sources can provide useful information]:
SFWA - realism vs fantasy (http://www.sfwa.org/writing/thud.htm)
INTERNET MEDIAEVAL SOURCEBOOK (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html )
NETSERF.ORG (MASSIVE ONLINE LIBRARY) (http://www.netserf.org/ )
THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY - MEDIAEVAL (http://www.msu.edu/%7Egeorgem1/history/medieval.htm )
MANCHESTER MEDIAEVAL SOURCES (http://www.medievalsources.co.uk/)
And here's a beauty - just a few important mediaeval terms explained:
BRITTANIA LEXICON (http://www.britannia.com/history/resource/gloss.html)
December 7th, 2002, 03:18 PM
Answering a question with a question...
How do you stand on the typical fantasy description of armours armour, swords etc and the use there of?? The way fantasy writers or budding ones write battles and fights?
If you, as you say like to inject "realism" into your work how do you stand on these the most misused of all items in fantasy.
December 7th, 2002, 09:11 PM
Holbrook, I see what you mean, but there will always be leeway in fantasy with regard to realism.
Tolkien and Martin are convincingly real IMO.
December 7th, 2002, 09:56 PM
Thanks for the links I, Brian.
I think it's fun to write books in a midevil type setting as long as you apply other orginal elements. Of course that makes it very diffacult to maintain the reality in your novel. If you can't keep up that gritty, sweaty, realistic muscle in your worlds and characters you're stories will come out like mother goose rhymes or flat, faceless fairy tales.
I don't think fantasy is unrealistic at all but, as you said before, it is important to do your research.
December 8th, 2002, 01:23 AM
I actually haven't read a fantasy novel in years, so I couldn't comment.
The last one I remember properly I think was Dragonlance. I remember reading a section where they go into a city, later destroyed - and suddenly realised that this entire world had no culture.
Realsim isn't about compromising fantasy, as much as complementing it. Realism should be about giving those details to your world that make it even more believable. Look at how Tolkien dealt with languages, for example [but percussive injuries is another issue!].
December 8th, 2002, 02:31 AM
Well, what I like about Fantasy is heroes, a world I don't know about (the ultimate mystery), a lack of technology (better setting for heroes plus mystery factor again), and the fact that I can read about a culture/society that thinks its beliefs/values are the only ones.
In fantasy you can attempt to take universal truths and implant them in a made up world. And I do agree with you...most fantasy lacks a complete and believable world. This is why I also have difficulty finding a fantasy novel or setting I can truly appreciate.
But I think George R.R. Martin is very good and I'll never get tired of swords and magic.
In short, I don't think its the fantasy setting. It is simply the fact that fantasy tends to attract dreamers instead of practical people. And dreamers don't always make the best writers...(not always the case of course).
December 8th, 2002, 02:48 AM
Pluvious, all writers are dreamers. :)
Apart from those who write historical and scientific texts, and the like.
December 8th, 2002, 02:49 AM
I. Brian: I find this statement rather strange.
I actually haven't read a fantasy novel in years, so I couldn't comment
If as you say you are writing in the field, surely you should read what is in the market place at the current time? To get a feel for what is and what is not selling. To find what is and is not being exploited, with regard to fantasy elements in books.
You talk of creating complete worlds, yet you seem to dismiss, what is a large part of the fantasy recipe i.e. combat and battles.
If one is to write about such things it is wise to know what is possible with a weapon and what is not, then to use the knowledge to "stretch" the abilites to compliment the characters if required.
Also there is the trap of putting too much detail into a setting. A modern reader will not be versed in all the medieval terms how many know what braies are, do you you?
The trick of creating a "fantasy world" in my opinion is to but enough detail to make the reader feel comfortable. i.e. they can see in their mind's eye the place, the room, the character.
Tolkien use with languages,yes that was his passion and it shone through in his work. But in other elements of his work he glossed over areas far to quickly and left characters undeveloped, or over egged the pudding too much in other sections..
Also often detail wins and the character looses. To me the characters are important, I try to reflect their world through them, their behavior, speech, actions and motives to show their world.
There is none of my later work up here on this site, as I had the chapters of "hat man" removed as it has been edited and sent off to the publisher. Also my other work in progress is of a more adult nature so I can't really show what I mean.
I do use "realism" in my work The Hat man" is set in a blend of 17th century Europe, with a story straight out of a western *g*
In previous works I have based three races, all human on various time periods. One 13th century Europe, one 8th century Wales andone a cross between 17th century priates and a middle eastern society circa 14th century.
Each aspect of their country, its history, religion, legend, customs. plans of their lands, cities, villages, the interaction and confilicts of their cultures, dress, etc etc is detailed. The research alone took two years, the writing one. The detail is wonderful but the characters suck.
The book is selved it need to be rewritten, employing far more characterisation. The comments of publishers and critiques ( some very harsh ones) have helped me see that though the setting of a story is important. It is the characters that drive stories and one should not over shadow or be used at the expense of the other.
December 8th, 2002, 03:11 AM
No, I'm not dismissing combat - think our wires are crossed here.
I think the SFWA piece I linked to illustrates the issue far better than I can.
December 8th, 2002, 04:01 AM
I. Brian: don't take this the wrong way, all the links you have put are good, but some especially the SFWA is a personal opinion and some of the "facts" presented there I would dispute from a historical point.
The cruder blades of Europe demanded still closer attention.
Having done considerable reserach on this matter and handled reproductions and "the real thing" at the Royal Armouries Leeds, I can state that the European blade was not cruder and the bladesmiths of the medieval period were in they own way equal to the Japanese smiths.
But you still haven't stated any of your own conclusions from research you have done.
And you still haven't answered my question concerning braies ;)
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