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DEPICTING RACES IN A FANTASY WORLD

August 4, 2021

            This article isn’t about what we would normally consider race in the real world, such as African American, Latino, Asian, etc. While it could encompass that, this is more about employing some of the classic races or creatures, or icky bugs such as elves, dwarves, fairies, and such, drawn from Lord Of The Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, or other fairy tale and/or fantasy lore.

            A question that comes up a lot is people asking about portraying these (or even more) creatures accurately.

            Accurately? In a made-up fantasy world? Are you serious?

STICKING TO CONVENTION

            When it comes to world building and research, this can be a two-edge sword. When writing fantasy, to me, at least, it’s kind of the point to make up the world. Therefore, any research involved is not so much races and creatures, it’s realistic physical things like castles and flora and fauna and sword fighting and geography, and basic science UP TO A POINT.

            To me, in a made up world, you well…make it up. The only catch is that you have to have some basis for reality as a starting point before you can go off the rails, then it has to make some kind of sense. When you make up rules, you have to make sure these rules are based on logic and you stick with them. That requires you have at least an inkling of the real world before you bend things for your fantasy world. That’s where convention veers into fantasy.

            When it comes to fantasy races and creatures, there never was much basis on reality in the first place! Therefore, why in the world are you bothering with convention in your made up world?

FANTASY RACES HAVE LITTLE BASIS IN REALITY

            This is the biggie.

            Fantasy races and creatures have little to no basis in reality. They all came from fairy tales, legends, and most were just plain made up.

            A few were obviously based on reality such as dwarves. Then again, given the way they’re portrayed in fantasy, they’ve gone far astray of reality in many cases.

            If you’re building a world and are sticking to convention because you don’t want to be called on it, my question is why?

            It’s your world! It’s fantasy and is totally made up! There are no rules that say you have to stick with Lord Of The Rings or D&D tradition.

            You don’t have to stick with Grimm specifics for your story.

            While it may be fun to research this stuff, why get uptight about it or freak out because your elves don’t have the correct shaped ears or hair the correct color?

            Why worry because your fairies don’t have the correct color wings or don’t weigh the correct amount?

            Why worry because the dwarves in your world aren’t all miners and some practice magick?

            Why worry if your dragons can’t fly?

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

            In a completely made up fantasy world, even urban fantasy, which is based on fantasy mixed with the real world, you have a free reign to do what you want. There ARE certain conventions you have to follow.

            The biggest one is that IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE, whatever you do.

            That’s it.

            Does it have to comply with Rule #17B of the D&D Monster Manual (I just made that up – not a direct quote) or Lord Of The Rings, Chapter 37, paragraph 44?

            No, it does not.

            Get over it.

SUMMARY

            The reason the genre is called fantasy is because that’s what it is.

            Fantasy.

            It’s a made up world.

            It only has to make sense, and the writer, YOU, has to set rules based on some kind of reality that you set. The biggie is that these rules have to make sense to the reader.

            Sure, they may have to follow convention to some degree, but that’s the physical aspects of the world. The populace doesn’t have to comply with any of that.

            If you’re going to have an elf that’s eleven feet tall, that might be a stretch. Or, maybe a dwarf that comes in at five hundred pounds? Both of these examples compared to normal sized humans are pushing it. Then, you might want to think of another name for them. I’m just saying.

            Happy writing!

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