marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

philosophizing on the strangeness budget

The strangeness budget is the amount of weirdness you can stick in the story without overloading the reader.

There's only so much to swallow, which is why most extra-terrestrial human settlements tend to be on planets with 24-hour days.  Making the day longer or shorter is just local color in most stories.  Trying to make the day change significant to the story is hard, and wouldn't fit in most stories thematically.  So you rip off the real world and do your research to find what terms would be used to refer to the queen even though you are making up your entire kingdom, so your readers don't have to juggle, "Sister of the Sun and the Moon" and "the Second Cousin of the Evening Star" and figure out which is the more important rank.

To be sure, having them be Her Majesty the Queen and Lady Jane does not always help some readers.  There's a limit to everything.  Still, for your target audience, it will let you go gung-ho on your winged lions and whether they are a danger to dirigibles.

On the whole, I think more books I read have underspent their weirdness budget than overspent it.  Throwing around a little magic does not prevent the world from being a hohum backdrop for the story that does not engage it.  Then I think the genre needs more wild, weird, wonderful worlds out there. You do want people to know that these are not the fields they know.
Tags: local color, names, research, theme, world-building: courtesy, world-building: general, world-building: magic (effects), world-building: social structure, writing audience
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