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How does one differentiate between alternative worlds/history and the ‘real’ thing? (Though you all know my argument with the word ‘real’. So I’ll go for actual history. Though I do think that could be debated also. Since history is recorded by survivors and winners and all depends on the perspective…)
But I digress.
I don’t write in the ‘real’ world. Or the actual world. I write alternate world fiction or completely different world fiction. Yes, I sometimes involve aliens, fairies, and witches…but I’m not terrible content with the classification of paranormal. I mean, so my characters do magic…that isn’t the defining plot point of the books! If your characters have hot sex, but it’s more about falling in love, then it isn’t erotic, right? It’s erotica or erotic romance… So? My lead can do magic, or is an alien, or a fairy…that’s just part of who they are…
Damn it, I’m digressing again!
I want to write about how obvious does one make it to the reader that this isn’t your ‘real’ world. Do you state it up front, big letters… ALTERNATE WORLD or do you sprinkle it in, enlighten them slowly? In A Caribbean Spell, set in a Caribbean of the 1690s, my people are much more liberal in outlook, much more open to strangers, less formal, less religious bound, more open to believing in magic…than how it was in the ‘real’ world.
But I’ve been dinged in contests for how ‘unrealistic’ this is. And my mentor has commented that this isn’t believable. Even though the book is labeled as a paranormal.
Drat. So, I wrestle with the conflict, again, of how much to reveal up front and when. Now, my sister has read A Caribbean Spell and floated through it, no argument. She reads mostly scifi/fantasy and had no internal censors throwing up flashing signs to disrupt her reading. (As my mentor did.)
What does a writer do? When this book sees a bookshelf, I would not expect it to be shelved with historical romance. I actually think it might slide into the scifi/fantasy shelves… But I have no control over that, of course. Do I write for the occasional historical reader, who might pick it up and then be gnashing their teeth at my lapses regarding ‘real’ history? Do I assume they need a big flashing neon sign on the book, pointing out with bluntness and regularity that this is an ALTERNATE WORLD?
Or do I sedately assume they will see the small and subtle clues from the start, or the blurb, and either not buy the book, or be aware that this is not a regular historical romance/adventure?
Or do I assume the books will be picked up by the more freewheeling fantasy adventure reader, who will relish the small differences? Or more accurately, not even see them? Or care about them?
Yes, all fiction is ‘unreal’ but let’s face it, the historical set have very strict standards for trampling, or tiptoeing, all over history. (Yes, Hel, I muck about with when coffee and chocolate enter the pubic awareness…and where they are grown.) (I just couldn’t create a world where the two weren’t readily available. Have mercy on me! And remember, this is set in an ALTERNATE WORLD. It’s smaller, the equator is further north than in the ‘real’ world…)
A more blatant paranormal might find these waters less treacherous…or not. I actually don’t read a great deal of paranormal. (But that is a blog for another day! To read what you write or to not read what you write, that is the question…for another day!) And I came from a history of reading mostly fantasy so the entire historically accurate debate never came up. (If I read a historical book, yes…I do want accuracy, as far as historical facts go.)
If I read science fiction, I want it to seem plausible. If a mystery be set in a town I know, I want it to be the town I know! I’m just like everybody else.
The question is, how much is enough with differentiating between the ‘real’ and the ‘not real’? The accurate and the different accurate? Without wanting to trample on expectations, but not wanting to treat the reader like an ignorant twit… (As tempting as that is sometimes…)
I wonder if a publisher would go for one of those computer voice things like the greeting cards have now… “Warning! This is a book set in an alternate world! If you wish to read about REAL pirates, set this book down and look elsewhere. Thank you.”
Use a disclaimer? Color the sea purple? I have the same problem with the newest of my MSs… The Changed World…our changed world…or should I give up and just make it a totally different place, different planet? Would Planet of the Apes have carried the same punch if the Statue of Liberty hadn’t been in that final scene?
Thoughts? Helpful suggestions? Rotten fruit? Opinions? Without getting into the us vs. them debate? (This is not a fantasy vs. romance blog, really. Hel, I’m not kidding. It isn’t.) I really want to get some opinions here!