WHERE IS YOUR FANTASY WORLD?
One of the reasons fantasy and science fiction get lumped onto the same shelf is that the worlds often seem to be on another planet. The fantasy world doesn’t match any known map of our Earth. With the advent of such modern subgenres as urban and medieval fantasy, that’s no longer always the case.
In urban fantasy, for instance, the setting may take place in modern day American or Jolly Olde’ Englande’. For historical or medieval fantasy, it could be 15th century Europe. The only difference is the fantastic or magickal elements that are incorporated into the otherwise vaguely (or specifically) real locales.
On the other hand, for a huge chunk of fantasy in general, the worlds are set in completely different worlds with no bearing on Earth except there are distinct features making these worlds similar enough to Earth to make them not alien, as with spaceships, advanced technology, and of course, travel between planets. That’s a prime difference between fantasy and science fiction. The plots are still basically the same. People, whether human, alien or monster, at odds with each other in some way.
The whole point of this article is to ask how you approach your world. If it’s set on Earth, whether present day or in the past, how do you handle the reality versus the fantasy? Since you’re restricted to real places, how do you keep the fantasy settings aligned with the real places? Do you fantasize the real places as you do with the inhabitants, or do you keep that side of things strictly real? Do you have a mix?
When you’re creating a unique world from scratch, you aren’t restricted by any kind of reality. It’s your world and you set your own rules. The only caveat is that you can’t go too far off on a limb and still expect it to be believable, even in fantasy, unless you set the world up that way right from the start and stick with those rules. I’ve talked about this before. If all the rivers run uphill, there needs to be a reason why and it has to make some kind of sense, even fantasy sense.
Going back to a real world fantasy setting, you can stretch only so far to keep things “real.” I think back to Harry Potter and the train station. Though we know it’s in London, at least in the movie, they never say which train station, that I can recall. I’ve actually been to Victoria Train Station in London and the one in the movie looked similar, at least back in the 70’s similar, and Harry and the gang could’ve easily walked into walls and shifted to the magickal station to take them to Hogwarts without anyone of the regular populace being any the wiser. That was proper use of a real setting and switching to her fantasy world. Maybe in the book, the author specifies which train station it is, but it’s a minor detail that could be picked apart by a detail oriented reader.
If you are going to use the real Earth, you need to be careful and make sure your ground rules are set and follow them just as strictly as you would in a completely made up world, but even more so because you have a double whammy. Not only can people call you on breaking your fantasy rules, they can call you on real place settings.
In Meleena’s Adventures, I chose a fantasy world. I made up everything from scratch. The planet is Earth-like and that’s it. It’s populated with flora and fauna found on Earth as well as icky bugs never found here. On top of that, there are mutant icky bugs created by magick users in a war conducted in the underground city of Slab. These creatures escaped and have now been running amok and spawning for centuries. It’s a much more dangerous world since.
Wherever you world is, take the time to consider these things so you don’t trip over them later. It will be well worth it in the end. Your readers will appreciate it too!