Reality Genre: Realism or Science Fiction / Fantasy

What is the Reality Genre?

The Reality Genre puts constraints on the way the ALTERNATE WORLD of our story operates by establishing codes, laws, and norms. It dictates how much the reader must suspend disbelief when building the world of our story in their mind. Each of the Reality Genre choices exists on the Chaos / Complexity / Order spectrum.

The Reality Genre is one of the five components of the GENRE FIVE LEAF CLOVER and it’s helpful to remember that GENRE is a label that tells the reader what to expect. In the Reality Genre, we tell the reader what to expect from the ALTERNATE WORLD of the story.

Reality Genre: Realism or Science Fiction / Fantasy

Chaos, Complexity, and Order in the Reality Genre

Each of the Reality Genres exists on a spectrum of, not realism to fantasy, but Chaos, through Complexity, to Order.

  • Chaos is random uncertainty. Anything can happen at any time for any (or no) reason.
  • Order is the equivalent of certainty. When everything is ordered, the person who understands the order knows exactly what is going to happen next.
  • Complexity is the intermingling of Chaos (uncertainty) and Order (certainty). It is the most reflective of real life.

As we move through the Reality Genres it helps to think through where each sits on the Chaos / Complexity / Order spectrum by how uncertain / certain the AVATARs and reader are about what will come next from the ALTERNATE WORLD.

4 Categories of Reality Genre

 We separate the Reality Genre into four distinct categories:

1. Absurdism

ALTERNATE WORLDS in the Absurdism Reality Genre are not remotely real and live on the Chaos end of the spectrum. In Absurdism anything can happen at any time for any (or no reason). Examples include Eugene Ionesco’s play The Bald Soprano or Looney Tunes.

2. Factualism

ALTERNATE WORLDS in the Factualism Reality Genre exist in a world of facts from history or biography. They refer to part of the historical record, implying the story did happen, like the movie Argo or 12 Years a Slave or Serpico. Because the world of real life consists of both Chaos and Order, Factualism sits within the Complexity portion of the spectrum.

3. Realism

ALTERNATE WORLDS in the Realism Reality Genre exist in a world where they could happen in real life, but are imagined. CRIME stories such as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, LOVE stories such as Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and ACTION stories such as Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson exist in this Reality Genre. Because stories set in the real world consist of both Chaos and Order, Realism sits within the Complexity portion of the spectrum.

4. Fantasy

The Fantasy Reality Genre includes ALTERNATE WORLDS of wonder and imagination that require a comprehensive suspension of disbelief. Because of this suspension of belief, it requires a high degree of order so the reader can understand the rules of the ALTERNATE WORLD and stay engaged.

The Fantasy Reality Genre is delineated by three subgenres:

  1. Human: ALTERNATE WORLDS with fantastical elements to highlight patterns of human behavior. Examples include anthropomorphic tales such as George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm or a fantastical experience like the movie Groundhog Day.
  2. Magical: ALTERNATE WORLDS with magical laws that can be mastered by certain AVATARS, but not everyone. They are nostalgic representations of the past when people earned the right to use magic. You can further break Magical stories down into categories such as:
    1. Epic Fantasy: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
    2. Portal Fantasy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
    3. Dark Fantasy: Stories of H.P. Lovecraft
    4. Grimdark Fantasy: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
    5. Urban Fantasy: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  1. Science Fiction: ALTERNATE WORLDS with imagined technologies with no special requirements of the user. They are futuristic representations of striving for utopia by distributing technology to all people. You can further break Science Fiction down into categories such as:
    1. Alternate History: Watchmen by Alan Moore
    2. Cyberpunk: Neuromancer by William Gibson
    3. Hard Science: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
    4. Military: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
    5. Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    6. Romantic: Passengers (2016 film)
    7. Soft Science: Star Trek
    8. Space Opera: Star Wars

How the Reality Genre Effects Your Story

Getting the Reality Genre right for your story is important because it helps your SINGLE AUDIENCE MEMBER (SAM) understand the codes, laws, and norms of the ALTERNATE WORLD where your story takes place. It enables SAM to suspend her disbelief and project her own experience inside of the ALTERNATE WORLD.

Additional Resources

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