Book Talk | Three Dark Crowns and the Virtue of Verisimilitude

Fiction is a powerful escape from the humdrum of reality. Naturally, readers are expected to suspend their disbelief if they wish to maximize the reading experience. When readers enter a story, they have an unspoken agreement with the book: I’ll accept the book’s version of reality as long as the book itself provides a reality that’s believable and consistent enough to get behind. Simple.

But there’s a catch. Even though it is fiction, stories should do the heavy lifting when it comes to suspending disbelief. Readers can’t and shouldn’t be expected to suspend all of their disbelief because then they’d just be a passive observer of the story’s events, barely critical of the characters, hardly conscious of what the story is trying to tell.

Fictional stories may not be real but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any realistic elements in them. The best stories are grounded in a conceivable perception of reality which is why readers can easily get lost in those worlds – at some level, the fictional world feels solid enough that readers don’t need to stretch to imagine themselves in that reality. You can accept that a secret world of witches and wizards coexist with ours and that only a little orphan boy can save that magical world from crumbling. You can buy a young Texan girl trapped inside her house is blown away into a weird and colorful world with talking lions and heartless tin men. You can even believe that a small island kingdom can have triplet queens born every generation and that they must fight to the death for the crown on their 16th birthday. All of those fantastical concepts are fine on their own and don’t really need to provide an in depth lore to explain each and every how and why.

However, when a book only spews concepts and ideas without the least bit effort in the building of a logical reality… well, readers can suspend their disbelief only for so long.

Read More »

Book Talk: Crafting a Magic/Power System and The Lunar Chronicles

I have a passionate love for books with magic or superpowered people and I’m currently in the processing of writing my own little fantasy tale and, let me tell you, as fun as imagining a make-believe world is, it’s insanely difficult to establish a coherent magic system. Depending on the kind of story you’re writing, a magic/power system can be as comprehensive or as mysterious as you want and oftentimes even just deciding which route to take can be difficult.

In my opinion, a story can have the most fascinating magic/power system ever but if that system doesn’t have consistent rules, if the system can’t even stand under basic scrutiny, then the whole story will flop. Willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far and when you’re dealing with magical folk you’re treading on thin ice to begin with. Now, from what I’ve gleaned from weeks of on-and-off research, making a rational magic/power system is attainable if you take three things into consideration: the verisimilitude of the system, the conflict/s that the system invokes, and the impact of the magic/power to users, non-users, and society as a whole.

As an example, let’s take a look at Marissa Meyer’s triumphant sci-fi adventure series, The Lunar Chronicles. Although the book series doesn’t have as extensive a magic/power system as in a Tolkien tale or any Tamora Pierce book, I believe The Lunar Chronicles is a great example of how a simple superhuman ability can shape a simple story into a complicated, riveting yarn.

Read More »