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Monday, April 25, 2016

U is For Unrealistic...Well, ANYTHING

Tropes…love ’em or hate ’em, some seem to be here to stay.  Whether they should or not is actually up to the individual reader.  I think the main problem with tropes is that an author reads a story, they’re so drawn into the world of those characters, and they love those characters so much, they decide they want to write a story like that.  Okay, that’s great.  Imitation is often referred to as the highest form of flattery.  However, there’s a problem.  When someone decides to write a story like that, they often have a tendency to rewrite THAT particular story.  Oh, not in the manner of plagiarism—though that’s happened—but they’ve taken the bare bones of the inspiring story and just dressed it up in different clothing.  There’s not a whole lot out there that hasn’t been done before, and most stories have commonalities as their core.  Because of this, you have a tendency to see certain tropes that pop up quite often in specific genres.  Some of those tropes have such a universal theme you’ll find them in other genres as well.  The secret is, if you do decide to go with a tried and true trope that a lot of readers still love, then you need to find a way to put a new spin on it.  To teach an old dog new tricks.

U is for...
Unrealistic...Well, ANYTHING

I originally intended to write this post about a more specific unrealistic trope, but which one to choose?  Then, I realized that I took issue with most anything that was unrealistic in the world for which it was created.  In my last post, I touched on this with magic, but there are others that bug me as well.

For example, in fantasy and other genres, you have horses riding hellbent for leather, non-stop.  When these poor animals are ridden in such a way, why is it they never drop dead from exhaustion?  Sure, your horses coud be mythological creatures that can travel vast distances in a short span of time, but the horses I'm talking about don't seem to come from such bloodlines.  If they did, in most cases they didn't seem to have inherited the speed aspect, since the characters are often on their quest for as little as several weeks, or as long as a year or more.  Granted, this isn't exactly a trope per se, but it still fits because you can often find this in fantasy novels.

And what about unrealistic societies?  Our regular blog readers might remember me mentioning this during a previous post about world building, but I think it bears repeating.  Fiction is wonderful for the freedoms it gives you as a writer.  However, even if you create a world from scratch, you have two primary things to focus on pertaining to societies.  Obviously, you're going to have other things to consider as well, but these two are primary.  First, the society has to work in your world.  No matter how outlandish your world or your society, the society has to work in the world.  You wouldn't put a mining-type society in a world that doesn't have any kind of mining technology, and you wouldn't put it in an area where it wouldn't be geologically possible to find whatever they're supposed to be mining.  So you have to make sure it works in your world.

Second, you have to make sure your society is realistic and makes sense in your world.  Once, I received a manscript that was interesting and showed promise, but I ultimately had to reject it because it had too many flaws.  One of the primary flaws pertained to the two societies of the world.  One society was a purely female society, and the other had men and women in it, but the men ruled.  Women were not considered equals in that society, and their rights were limited.  A resistance was forming that was composed of people who believed men and women should be equal partners.  The biggest problem with this was that there was no explanation for why the men-and-women-as-equals society hadn't naturally formed before, and why they had to be an underground resistance.  A brief explanation of why the other two societies formed was given, but there was no logical reason given for the equal society not to exist openly.  You can create any kind of society you want, but it has to have a logical basis and make sense within your world.  If your readers apply the logic and traditions of your world to the society, they have to be able to see how and why it exists.

The same is true of unrealistic characteristics of the people in a society or race.  Everyone in a particular society or race isn't going to be the same.  I suppose you could get away with this if all those who are different are banished from the society.  However, if banishment is the standard reaction to difference, then you're likely to have those who publically follow the norms of their society, but who have different viewpoints or practices in private.  Much as many pagans did when the world first began converting to Christianity.  Of course, that woud be one way to create conflict within a particular society.  There are some things that could be widely believed or practiced throughout the society, but there could also be differing opinions on the right way to do those things, or even wheher or not those things are right to begin with.  Not every member of a society or race is going to have the same values and beliefs.  You see diversity in humans, even among those of the same societies, religions, social orders, and races, so why wouldn't that hold true for others as well?  Even an alien race is likely to have differences within its population, unless they happen to have a hive mind like the Borg in Star Trek.

There are many more things that fall into the unrealistic category, but this post is probably long enough.  I don't want to bore anyone!  When you're writing, you need to make sure to avoid the many unrealistics floating around out there.  Ask yourself if this seems too unrealistic.  And when you send your manuscript out to your beta readers, if one says something doesn't seem realistic, it's possible it's just that reader, but do take a second look and mull it over.  If you have two or more questioning the believability of something, then it's very likely there's a problem, so definitely take another look at it.  Things might look good or sound cool at first, but they usually won't hold up under scrutiny.


Optimistic Existentialist said...

As a writer, I do not mind when things are a LITTLE unrealistic...but when it gets a little too carried away, that is something else entirely.

Kathleen Valentine said...

There has to be some relation to reality for me to buy into a story. I'm a firm believer in the suspension of disbelief as long as the story doesn't ask more than I can imagine.

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Liz A. said...

Something to be aware of, certainly.

Carrie-Anne said...

As a historical writer, it really bugs me when there are unrealistic, implausible elements in a story. As I always say about this topic, if you're going to have something a bit unusual for the time period or society (e.g., a highly-educated woman in 1800, an entire family surviving the Shoah), at least make it within the realm of plausibility, carefully show how this was possible, and make it clear this wasn't an everyday occurrence.

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Donna McDine said...

Thought provoking post. Depending on the story, sometimes the unrealistic jives with me others times not so much! Love the pics along with your post!

Tara Tyler R said...

great post - tropes do need new spins, and even though we can create worlds, they still have to make sense! and being the creator, we need to know it all even if no one else hears all the boring details, we know!

happy homestretch of a to z!

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Chrys Fey said...

It's so important to be realistic, especially in stories that are contemporary or supposed to be "real." Even with fantasy or sci-fi, things need to make sense.