Reality vs Fantasy: How To Strike a Balance


Speculative fiction—including Dystopian, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi—provides us with an escape from reality, with fantastical realms where we can dive into the impossible and explore worlds shaped by imagination alone.
Or so we think…
Imagination alone cannot shape a world. If things were truly impossible, we, the reader, would not swallow them as believable. In the end, even the most fantastical realm has to include some form of realism, otherwise they would be incomprehensible.
It’s a very delicate balance authors have to strike, layering in the fantasy while still keeping their world and story grounded in reality.
So how do they do it? How is a Sci-Fi, Dystopian, or Fantasy world built to be both spectacularly creative and entirely believable? Every author has their own strategy for approaching this sort of world building, but in the end, it typically comes down to a few basic steps.

Step 1: Start with a Familiar Concept
The human mind has amazing capabilities for imagination, but it is rare to truly come up with something “out of thin air”. Mostly, we take what we already know, something familiar, and expound upon it, shape it, or twist it in a new way.
For example, take any speculative fiction government:
 Fantasy kingdoms ruled by monarchs, or empires ruled by Emperors. That’s an easy one—feudal systems of all sorts have existed throughout time.
 Sci-fi galaxies ruled by alien overlords, impossible beings, or corporations. Again, there’s this concept of “ruled by a higher power” that we’re all familiar with, all that’s changing is what the higher power looks like.
 Dystopian societies sorted by class, caste, personality type, or random lottery. All of these societies are grounded in some form of reality, merely adapted to the unique world crafted by the author.
Reality is always the foundation upon which the fantastical is built.

Read the entire article in the October 2021 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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