Plotting reality-based fantasy


Part of my search for a new project includes a skeletal plotting of ideas that answers questions like these: what is the inciting incident, what is the main conflict, how will the climax roll out, who are the characters… It is a broad-strokes, unfocused look at what could evolve into a complete story.

That process involves research. I enjoy doing it because I like my fantasy grounded in reality. I look for hooks of truth upon which I can hang the story elements. I think those truthful elements help the believability of the story. For example – most of the detail in THE SEEDKEEPER’S SECRET is true. Yes, there are some big twists on reality thrown in there, but a lot of it is true.

But when do you make the leap? When do you give yourself the freedom to stray into make-believe?

The story I’m researching right now is based on a lot of science, so it’s tempting to stick closer to the truth – science being such an objective measure. But I’m finding myself saying, “oh no, it won’t work because pollen grains aren’t large enough to act as condensation nuclei that will sufficiently increase cloud reflectivity.”

But WHO SAYS? I’m in charge here! The trick, I’m finding, is knowing when to make the leap, and explicitly saying to myself: “notwithstanding science, I’m going to take a leap here and insert a bit of fantasy.”

For me, the trick is to be sure the fantasy element explains why my story’s pollen grains are different. That’s when I stop being truthful, and start being plausible. And plausibility is a place where great stories live.

How do you do it?

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