I am looking for the word that refers to the set of rules/laws within a fictional universe which maintains the realism within the universe.

Eg. Within The Lord of the Rings it is established that magic, elves, trolls etc are all realistic within this fantasy universe as it is established early on in the story, however, were Frodo to suddenly pull out a mobile telephone and let Gandalf know he was on his way to Mt Doom it would be unrealistic within the universe.

Words that it is not:

  • Realism
  • World building
  • consistency
  • plausibility

I seen it for the first time in a forum I can no longer find. All synonyms of realism are not what the word is either. I believe it to be specific to rules/laws within fictional/alternate universes created that maintain the status quo of realism.

I apologise if this is unclear but cannot think of another way to explain it and simply hope someone reading this knows the word.

  • 1
    We can't help you remember an arbitrary word. I believe the most likely phrase to describe this is internal consistency. But you've already ruled out consistency, even though it seems the best fit here. Unless you can say why it's wrong, it's simply a guessing game—which isn't a good fit for the site. Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:28
  • 1
    Can you help us by providing a sentence in which it could be used? Whenever I think of a possible word it requires other words around it to form the meaning I think you're after. Commented May 15, 2019 at 16:57
  • Are you sure it's a single word you're after, rather than a phrase? As Jason Bassford and others have pointed out, "internal consistency" and "internal logic" are often used in cases like this, as in "[a particular plot development] violated the show's internal logic." Another possibility would be to say that something "violated the laws of Tolkien's fictional universe." If you're looking for a more technical term, Steve Neale's notion of "generic verisimilitude" (see Zack's answer) might be your best bet, though it will not be as readily intelligible to most people.
    – Nanigashi
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 18:37
  • Worldbuilding.SE might be a good place to ask this question. There may well be a commonly accepted term.
    – Mick
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:30

4 Answers 4


It's not a single word but I think the term you're looking for is internal logic or internal consistency.



  • 1
    Yes, just like the Starbucks cup violated the internal logic of GOT. I suppose it could also be called an anachronism.
    – Zan700
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 17:38
  • 2
    And now you've consigned readers to the rabbit hold that is tvtropes. :)
    – Zack
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 17:43
  • @Zack marvellously expressive typo: I too sometimes feel that tvtropes exert a rabbit hold. Kinda soft but bitey. Commented May 17, 2019 at 2:26
  • 1
    @Chappo: I like that image so much I wouldn't even want to edit it. :)
    – Zack
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 13:10

I think an apt term would be [generic] verisimilitude.

From Wikipedia (emphasis in original):

Verisimilitude is the "lifelikeness" or believability of a work of fiction...Language philosopher Steve Neale distinguishes between two types: ...cultural verismilitude, meaning plausability...outside of the work; and generic verismilitude, meaning plausibility...within the bounds of its own genre."

Other related terms are mimesis and diegesis.

Further in the Verismilitude article, Wikipedia states:

Verisimilitude has its roots in both the Platonic and Aristotelian dramatic theory of mimesis, the imitation or representation of nature. For a piece of art to hold significance or persuasion for an audience, according to Plato and Aristotle, it must have grounding in reality.

Here's a contrast between these 2 terms in the Diegesis article:

Diegesis (Greek διήγησις "narration") and mimesis (Greek μίμησις "imitation") have been contrasted since Plato's and Aristotle's times. Mimesis shows rather than tells, by means of action that is enacted. Diegesis is the telling of a story by a narrator. The narrator may speak as a particular character, or may be the invisible narrator, or even the all-knowing narrator who speaks from "outside" in the form of commenting on the action or the characters.

  • Zack, your citation of Neale's idea of "generic verisimilitude" is spot on, as far as I'm concerned, but much of the other material you have included in your answer doesn't seem directly relevant.
    – Nanigashi
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 18:52
  • @Nanigashi: I think the concepts of diegesis and mimesis and relevant, since it's a question of considering the story as a story (with narrative elements) versus the story as an imitation of life (which necessitates the internal consistency).
    – Zack
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 19:02

An important concept so no need to apologize. I think the best one is what you are using; Universe. This is a new usage in modern dictionaries.


decorum (noun) de·​co·​rum | \ di-ˈkȯr-əm \ Definition of decorum

  1. literary and dramatic propriety : FITNESS according to strict neoclassic decorum only the aristocracy had the right to appear in tragedy — Irving Babbitt
  2. propriety and good taste in conduct or appearance strict in her notions of decorum — Jane Austen
  3. ORDERLINESS the organization's decorum has rarely been shaken — W. F. Longgood
  4. decorums plural : the conventions of polite behavior the established sobrieties and decorums of English life — H. G. Wells

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