We’ve all been there. Someone draws a sword to the sound of a high pitched metallic shriek. A bullet passes through twenty metres of water to kill a movie character.
Realism is overrated when it comes to movies and books. We’ve all had those moments where there’s something that just doesn’t add up, that doesn’t connect the way we had expected. Sound effects in general are like that. It is like producers make an effort to ‘enhance’ reality.
Don’t get me wrong, it works. It’s brilliant and beautiful. There’s something satisfying at a group of soldiers all drawing their swords with a sching sound. I like the enhanced sound, the enhanced experience.
But there are advantages to choosing a more realistic approach, of course. Education is an impressive by-product of the majority of the media we consume. When our minds are so fully engaged, we readily soak up information that comes our way.
I myself do my best, which is naturally all anyone can do. I mostly write science fiction when it comes to novels. There is no sound in space. Heat and flame dissipates quickly, limited by the cold emptiness that surrounds them. Debris spreads further and faster, propelled by its inertia.
Don’t get me stated on artificial Gravity, though. I don’t know how it might work and I don’t provide an excuse in my writing. I briefly mention rail guns and plasma cannons, but I won’t specify their workings either.
Sometimes it’s better to be a little vague. We can forgive things being a little off when they enhance the story, or form part of its background. It can also be a way of covering up the fact that you know nothing about the content, in a way.
I’m not a physicist. I vaguely understand the concept behind a rail gun, perhaps, but I’m not going to pretend to understand Gravitons. It’s important in writing, as in life, to understand and accept your weaknesses.
The easiest way to do this in writing is to avoid technical terms and specifics when you have no idea. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that. It’s infinitely worse to be humiliated in detail than in passing.
So don’t go all out for realism. After all, why would you expect realism when reading science fiction and fantasy?