A Simple Trick That Makes Your Fiction Much More Sticky And Relatable

Utilize the ugly normal to revitalize your fantasy narrative.

Science fiction and fantasy need to be thrilling, adventurous, and invigorating. Too often, in our efforts to write super-exciting genre fiction, we elevate our characters and the action onto stilts of heroic perfection.

Though laudable, these efforts can backfire. Readers need a bridge, a measure of safe relatability to help them cross over and fully inhabit the worlds that we write.

Idealized fiction:

Hornby drew, in one swift motion, his shining broadsword, and beat away the advancing hordes of screaming elves.

“You will never take our city!” Hornby bellowed. He hacked away limbs, and lopped off the heads of his seemingly-endless opponents.

“Keep them back while I conjure the great death!” Moriven cried. The wizard’s two slave girls propped him up on a high chair of bamboo, and Moriven’s beard spun like ice down his knees as he conjured a spinning web of black light between his hands.

“For Balinor and the King Under the Sea!” Hornby shouted, his sword cascading through the horde like a hot knife through butter.

Normal and Ugly fiction:

“Shouldn’t we try to help them fight?” Hornby asked. He crouched at the edge of the cliff, and peered out at the hundreds of blood-painted forms that hurtled at the sparse forces of the Balinor outpost.

“Give me five minutes, and they’ll all be dead,” Moriven said. The old wizard’s eyes were closed; he sat on the cold rocks, and his two slave girls conjured long strings of black light from the ground, and fed them into Moriven’s hands.

“What are you going to do to them?” Hornby asked, his eyes on the delicate web of darkness that was growing in Moriven’s lap. The old man let out a long sigh, and his long white beard quivered gently.

“We’re making a ball of death,” one of the slave girls murmured.

“They will all explode inside,” the other girl added.

Hornby shifted on his feet, and put his hand on the hilt of his broadsword.

“By all means, jump down there and help your Balinorian brothers,” Moriven said. “They will die as well.”

“That’s not right,” Hornby snapped. “You can’t kill our side, too.”

“I’m ready,” Moriven said with a groan, and his two slave girls helped him to stand. “Move or die,” Moriven said to Hornby, who ran out of the way. The old man, supported on either side by his purple-robed slaves, hobbled towards the edge of the cliff, his two hands full of a pulsating globe of black magic.

The more of normalcy and mundane ugliness you can sneak into your writing, the more compelling your readers will find your world and characters.