Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Writing Modern Fantasy

Okay, so anyone who has read my works, gay or straight stories, can tell that I like a hefty dose of fantasy, magical and paranormal, with my reality. I like to create things that cannot be in this world, yet set my story in this world. I consider this to be 'Modern Fantasy'. That has become a very popular subset of fantasy, with Harry Potter, Twilight (yes, haters be quiet, it is still a contribution to the genre), Black Dagger Brotherhood, New Species Organization ... just to name a few.

Now, a lot of people think with fantasy that anything goes. Well, to some extent, that is true. You can create the fantastical, like a whole new world contained within speck that a talking elephant rescues, or you can take a scientific phenomenon like a black hole and turn it into a space surfing route for humans to travel the galaxy. That's the beauty of it! The interesting part comes when you mix it in with the world as people know it today.

How does it fit? How do you explain it? Is it a shock to everyone, like werewolves suddenly admitting they exist to the world at large, or have they evolved along side people and everyone has always known? Is it still a secret from the world at large but the main characters, and the reader, get to be the privileged few that find out the magic hidden away from prying eyes? That's the question you really have to figure out; how do you make the implausible become plausible? How do you make the unrealistic come alive in the reader's mind?

It's not easy, I guarantee it! I once had a reader tell me that they loved one of my series, simply because the characters, who really aren't human, are people they can see. They have otherworldly characteristics but I made it so believable and it worked so well in the modern world I created that they felt like real people they wanted to meet and get to know. That was a compliment of the highest order, because that is EXACTLY what I think a writer of modern fantasy should strive for.

However, there are some rules, or perhaps you might call it a formula, to create a ' modern fantasy' story, imo.

1. Your main plot event MUST be something that isn't possible in our world, as we know it.
2. The setting should be Earth, as well know it, or as close to as we know it as possible.
3. The special characters should seem human, but make them your own special twist. They don't have to look human, per se, but give them that something that makes them seem like a neighbor, or a person on the bus, or in the grocery store that you could walk up to and say hello. They should be both ordinary and extraordinary.
4. The solution that overcomes the plot obstacle can often be something magical, or fantastical, as it were.

A few examples of ideas I've bandied about:

Spoof the Iditarod: Have a human racing through freezing black holes in space with the help of a space person/animal that is like a sled dog guide, in order to find some magical cure for a deadly plague on Earth. The cure might not be magical on whatever alternate Earth they'd find it on, but it could be on Earth they come from.  The main plot event is finding the cure in space, the setting is earth-both alternate and 'real' and 1 character could be human, and another human like but with fantastical powers. Obviously, the cure would seem magical on the Earth the character is trying to save.

Gift a person with the ability to control their body down to a cellular level. Then say they were captured by the government and forced to produce stem cells that were being grown into embryos or even children that were being used as experiments. But... if that person had the ability to control their cells... would they destroy the embryos and children if they found out what was going on, how would they not know about it, unless they were being kept in stasis? Would they have say, a psychic type link to any 'body' created by the cells if they were aware of them? A story like that could go in many directions.

So as you can see, it is relatively easy to take something that is 'modern and real' and make it into 'modern and fantastical'. If that's a genre you're interested in, try it out! I'd love to see your stories, so if you do, link it here!


  1. One thing that's been happening lately is mixing genres. I see a lot of books where urban fantasy mixes with romance and thrillers. Science fiction has a lot of stories with thriller plot arcs right now, even the romantic ones. I think that's because readers get hooked on the thriller arc through other media, so expect it in their stories, also. :) Good post! I enjoy discussions about writing.

    1. I think that's great, personally. I love a good romance but I absolutely need more to go with it. Character pieces where the conflict is all internal are okay from time to time, but how realistic is that? In life, external issues are constantly influencing our relationships so I like to show that in my stories as well. Just sometimes that external conflict is a space war or hostile takeover by men with wings, lol! I like to think that appeals to my readers as well, as it widens the range of readers my story will appeal to.


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