I have been plotting a new fantasy novel lately, and have run into a familiar dilemma. In describing the natural environment, do I fall back on the typical earthly descriptions i.e. elms, oaks, willows etc or do I create a completely new ecology?
This is a kind of a double dilemma for me because I grew up in the southern hemisphere with wattles, wallum heath, eucalypt forest and saltbush. If I described all these in my fantasy book it would look weird to people who recognised them and would probably just be bizarre to readers from other climates.
The other problem I have is that although I am more than comfortable using my own native flora and fauna in urban fantasy and contemporary fantasy, it does not have a classic fantasy feel to me. All the fantasy and heroic fantasy fiction that I have really enjoyed has drawn the setting from Europe and the northern hemisphere, with oak groves, willows and aspens etc.
Yet as I writer I do not want to just recreate this northern setting, despite how familiar it feels. So am I stuck. If I go the route of creating a completely new ecology, I may have to sacrifice some of the evocative natural descriptions I love simply because I did not have the extra few months of free time needed to create all the name lists and really dream it all up properly.
As it is, I will probably go for an invented ecology, probably sprinkled with a few familiar terms.
How do you handle the Fantasy Foliage Dilemma?