Imagination

Tim Murray

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#1
I have read many fantasy and sci fi books over the years. Imagination and how we as writers express our thoughts are the stock and trade in getting our works known.

My question is, in the wide open field of both genres, is there a point when the story lines and characters go too far beyond believability? Is there a limit?
 

Hex

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#2
I think it depends how you write it. If the author can take me into her world, I'll believe whatever she tells me. I guess that scientific knowledge and likelihood might be more of a problem in science fiction, since in theory at least it has to be based on something at least vaguely possible.

Do you have any examples that make you think it might be an issue?
 

MemoryTale

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#3
I only have two issues when it comes to drawing the line.

The first is if the author has clearly written rules for how magic or science fiction aspects works, only to break them when it becomes convenient to the plot.

The second is superhuman feats performed by characters who are supposed to be normal. In the Inheritance Saga, a completely normal man wins a battle for his army basically by standing in a bottleneck, shouting "Come and have a go if you think you're 'ard enough" at the opposing army and killing some two hundred men single handed.
 

Tim Murray

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#4
I think it depends how you write it. If the author can take me into her world, I'll believe whatever she tells me. I guess that scientific knowledge and likelihood might be more of a problem in science fiction, since in theory at least it has to be based on something at least vaguely possible.

Do you have any examples that make you think it might be an issue?
Anne McCaffrey wrote a series based on unicorns evolving into a humanoid species with magical horns on their foreheads that could solve global warming single handedly. Can't recall the title now. They ate on their hands and knees munching grass like a horse. It didn't do it for me. Love her dragon riders series.
 

thaddeus6th

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#6
A lot of it is about internal consistency. If fairies need pixie dust to fly, you can't abandon that just because it's convenient.

Deus ex machina is another thing to avoid. It trivialises and diminishes the drama that goes before it.
 

Hex

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#7
I guess characters who suddenly change are one of the things I find difficult. Unless the change is well-handled I tend to twitch when quiet servant boys suddenly need to go off and fight dragons, or previously intelligent people are suddenly really stupid/ argumentative to serve a plot point or draw out tension.
 

ratsy

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#8
Anything can happen as long as it all works together. That being said, there may be a limited audience for a goatboy who battles spaceturds for the ultimate prize of a signing voice like Susan Boyle. But hey, I'm not here to judge what you write...:coffee:
 

allmywires

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#9
My question is, in the wide open field of both genres, is there a point when the story lines and characters go too far beyond believability? Is there a limit?
Simple answer: yes, there is, and plenty of people fall prey to it IMO.

But like Hex says...it's about the execution. If an author I trust writes a story about green butterfly people who ride seahorses on Mars, but underpins it with some cracking drama, brilliant character development and backstory, then it's going to work. I'm much more forgiving of plot wackiness than I am of wayward characterisation, probably because as a reader/writer I much prefer well built characters to a complicated plot.

Ultimately, if it's something you're worried about in your own writing, I think it's well worth remembering that any story with good characters and a logical world order goes a long way to patching up any artistic license taken with the plot.
 

StuartBurchell

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#10
Yes, there's a believability limit. I dislike it when an author makes his character able to do everything.

For example, Evan Currie's Odyssey One series. His main character, Eric Weston, a starship captain, is also a fighter jock and a foot soldier. I know he covered this in his first book by giving Weston his military history. Joined the US Marine Corps before becoming a fighter pilot. However, I can't see how any fighter squadron leader, no matter how famous, can become the first captain of Earth's first starship. A fighter Sqn Ldr and any ship's commander are totally different careers. I can't see how a fighter jock can achieve the skills a warship captain needs. It's not just the skills, it's also the experience required.

Evan Currie made his hero capable of doing everything. Totally unrealistic. But I still enjoy the books.
 

tinkerdan

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#11
For me you can push the limits with the science or fantasy if you have believable characters. That means if you give me the land of oz and put superman into it then I might give it a toss.

Likewise if you push the limits with some characters but make the science or the magic consistent an somewhat easier to swallow I might let it slide. I would still expect some grounded characters or at least believable within the magic fantasy world they exist in. Probably still not superman in a fantasy though. The original was pushing it with Metropolis and Daily Planet. But at least the other characters seemed well grounded:eek:utside of the super villains .
 

Venusian Broon

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#12
Believability is not only going 'beyond imagination' it can also be destroyed by taking refuge in mind-numbing obvious clichés.

I've read some Frankenstein monsters' of published books that read like the shards of a hundred movies and the hoariest old SF&F ideas put together like lego. Now don't get me wrong, we all re-use old ideas - I'd be the first to admit I do that, I am talking about here about lifting ideas almost 'fully formed' from other sources, as a sort of short hand to build the plot, characters and world.
 

EJ Heijnis

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#15
I have read many fantasy and sci fi books over the years. Imagination and how we as writers express our thoughts are the stock and trade in getting our works known.

My question is, in the wide open field of both genres, is there a point when the story lines and characters go too far beyond believability? Is there a limit?
I think a hard line exists somewhere around the point where the ideas being presented are so radically different from our own experience, we can't even tell if the characters are reacting plausibly because we can't begin to imagine how we (or anyone we know) would react. Not that I have an example of such a case. :censored: Anything less than that can work, depending on internal consistency, as said above. You can get away with a lot, as long as your characters deal with it in a realistic manner.
 

tinkerdan

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#16
Perhaps; but perhaps not::

I think a hard line exists somewhere around the point where the ideas being presented are so radically different from our own experience, we can't even tell if the characters are reacting plausibly because we can't begin to imagine how we (or anyone we know) would react. Not that I have an example of such a case. :censored: Anything less than that can work, depending on internal consistency, as said above. You can get away with a lot, as long as your characters deal with it in a realistic manner.
::One point of what if's is for us to experience how a normal character reacts to the radically different in their life.
 

EJ Heijnis

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#17
::One point of what if's is for us to experience how a normal character reacts to the radically different in their life.
True, and I find myself unable to come up with such different circumstances that I can't imagine how one might react. I suppose it would be a fun exercise to go looking for the limit, even if the end result is entirely unreadable. :D
 

tinkerdan

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#18
It doesn't need to be unreadable::
True, and I find myself unable to come up with such different circumstances that I can't imagine how one might react. I suppose it would be a fun exercise to go looking for the limit, even if the end result is entirely unreadable. :D
:: When written well. Take for example China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. You have a mix and blend of the bizarre characters sometimes acting human and human characters stepping beyond the pale; yet I thought it done well enough that it was not only readable but entertaining and a bit thought provoking.
 

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