NaNoWriMo Day 23

New words: 1,670
Total words: 38,730
Goal: 50,000

38730 / 50000

As my story fleshes itself out, I see myself taking an approach that I can only call the fantasy equivalent of “hard science fiction.” Hard science fiction attempts to bring scientific accuracy to the speculative elements of a story, either by basing them in actual contemporary scientific fact, or extrapolating from that fact to theoretical ideas that are likely to be confirmed in the near future based on what we know now.

The “fantasy equivalent” of this, for me, is to have the fantasy elements in my story–whether it is strange beings, their powers, or the “magic” humans do to interact with/effect these beings–be, not supernatural, but natural phenomena. I am only straying from the “hard” line by saying these fantastical elements are natural phenomenon that scientists at present just don’t have the theoretical concepts or observational techniques to deal with yet.

I sort of can’t help this naturalistic approach. Although I am perfectly comfortable with the supernatural in fiction, there is something I want to say with this story that makes taking this approach important to me.

But as a result, it is feeling a bit like I’ve sucked all the sense of wonder out of my novel. I did a Harry Potter marathon this past week since I got the final movie on DVD/Blu ray, and the thing that makes HP appeal to so many people, I think, is you can see and do so many fascinating things in his world, whether it is turning a loathed relative into a human balloon, or riding over a lake on the back of a half-bird, half-horse, or visiting someone else’s memories inside a sink full of mist. Magic is afoot in his world, and there is so much more to his world than an ordinary muggle ever suspects.

Similar case with Buffy, or the Dresden Files, or Star Trek, or anything like that. There is an element of each of these story worlds that is beyond escapist and actually transcendent, because, for a short time, these stories allow you feel as if you are touching something beyond the mundane. They do this by starting very much in the mundane, and taking you on a gradual journey to fantastical places where you can do and see these amazing things.

I have to figure out how to do that, to make my world more interesting, without turning it into a cartoon version of itself.

I don’t want to write “just another fantasy novel” with elves and magic and evil sorcerers and whatnot. I need to find a way to take my more “serious/rationalistic” approach and imbue it with a sense of magic.

12 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 23

  1. Suggestion? Try not to apply to rational to the supernatural elements or explain them. Let them be unexplained. I think from what you’ve written above, you feel the need to explain or apply science to it.
    In Harry Potter, Dresden Files, and even the series Buffy and Once Upon a Time…the writers don’t spend so much time explaining the mythology, they let it be the back story or setting, and focus on the characters reactions to it. (ie. Stop being Scully and act more like Mulder from the X-Files…)
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is another example – where the character isn’t trying to rationalize the world, he’s experiencing it. Or take Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of OZ or Charlie and the Chocolat Factory…or Steven Spielberg’s films, ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind…wonder is in both, because we are looking at the world through the eyes of a child, not a skeptic.
    Although you can do a skeptic – see Scully in the X-Files. I just think it’s harder to pull off?

  2. Hee. Going to do my own Harry Potter marathon tomorrow or Friday. Just got the last DVD in the series on Sunday.
    And that first sentence above? “Try not to apply rational thought to supernatural elements” – not sure that makes sense. My brain is killed by work again. 😉

  3. Carl Sagan’s Contact isn’t just tedious preaching about how we can’t travel faster than the speed of light. It works because it stretches beyond what science can explain. It’s exactly what you are talking about. As long as your complete scientific explanations are only going to be possible in the distant future and you make it clear that your scientists, whether they are in your story or just out there somewhere in your universe, are just touching the surface of explaining your fantastic elements, you’d be okay. It’s fine if they are confident it all will be explained someday. If they know what’s happening and can easily explain it to third-graders then your story is in trouble. I’ve been there in writing and it never works.

  4. I think it’s about how the characters experience this sense of magic. Two people could see the same sunset and one could give you a very detailed analysis of the pollution in the air and the other could wax poetically about colours and beauty and truth – they could even both have the same level of knowledge but still take very different views of what they were seeing depending on their states of mind.

  5. Only problem is, the rational explanations for the supernatural elements IS the story. That’s what I want to write about. They’re not supernatural. But mysterious enough to the contemporary mind to appear that way.

  6. I suppose the sense of mystery can be retained in that case, but I think taking a position as a writer that what is happening is natural, not supernatural, whether explained or not, sucks out the sense of wonder for some readers no matter what. And I think they will feel that way because I’m struggling not to feel that way.
    And yet I can’t take another position about it, because that’s the truth of my story.

  7. Star Trek managed that somehow. I don’t remember them ever arguing that anything–whether it was alien character’s ESP, or incorporeal beings, or anything else–was supernatural. There was always a natural explanation for it, and it involved a lot of clever techno-babble, and yet we all remained enthralled with the strange new worlds and civilizations.

  8. In other words, you are writing a science fiction novel not a fantasy novel.
    Because in fantasy, nothing is explained. Although there are hybrids…Kim Harrison’s novels are definitely that. The writer is biologist specializing in genetics.

  9. Yes, but I had to post that long post and see the replies before it hit me that that was essentially what I was doing.
    It *looks* like a fantasy novel, and it will continue to look like a fantasy novel, but at its core it is not.

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