Fantasy versus Fantastic, are they one & the same?

Once I participated on a panel about world building. I was amazed that the eight panelists were all on the same page about fantasy versus fantastic. We all preached that it doesn’t matter what world we create our characters need to have boundaries to live by. What do we mean by that?

That if you create an underwater world you have to come up with a way for your characters to breathe or some other way of maintaining life. Then you have to stick to that reality throughout the book. It is very un-professional to develop characters that can’t breathe water and then have them go swimming for hours in underwater caves without devices to make it possible.

Another thing that makes a beginning writer stick out for the wrong reasons is a fighting scene in which your character receives a major beating yet, he has no marks, pains, or is not even out of breath for a few minutes. If you are making a point of how strong he is then once might be all right. But if you continually put him through the ringer and he is still untouched that is too fantastic and you will lose your reader’s trust. In cases like this you might hear me say “Oh, pleasssse.”

If your character has a deep cut then he is bleeding and muscles are involved, and loss of strength and movement is expected at any rate.

If he passes out then it is normal to have a small headache, especially if the character falls down. Fuzziness of the brain and less than perfect balance, coupled with nausea is very possible. So give your character a time to recuperate from his ordeal… a good night sleep can regenerate anyone. This will make him/her more real and believable.

In reality even fantasy characters need flaws, if they are perfect they become boring and your tale does not move. That is a writer’s worst nightmare.

Yet another blunder for many writers is to have their hero’s swords un-realistically large. Think about it… when they are in a battle they spend hours fighting with them. (Think Lord of the Rings here.) Could anyone keep up their strength and stamina with a weapon that weighs 20 lbs., frequently in heavy armor? No, it is impossible, besides very large swords usually get in your way. What does the character do with it when he/she is not using it, or mounted on a horse? Where would you put it then?

If you must have a huge and glorious weapon use it for a ceremonial purpose or something else and not hours of fighting on the battlefield.

Remember Fantasy does not equal Fantastic. You want your readers to believe in you and in your characters… many times one try is all you get to gain a reader or a foe. So don’t waste your only chance.

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