I’ve slacked for a week on my A-to-Z challenge blog entries. I’ll try to catch up in the next couple of blog posts!
What I love about paranormal/fantasy romance is that I can combine my love of complicated relationships with my love of creating a world unlike anyone else’s.
In fantasy, the art of world-building is the ability for a writer to show a reader a new reality in a way that doesn’t take hundreds of pages of exposition. How do you establish a new world quickly? Here are a few tips:
1. Emphasize that this new reality already exists and is in full swing.
The readers should be stepping into a new culture and place, not being told the history, appearance, and intricacies of everything around them. This new culture and place may have its own lingo, its own traditions/customs, its own issues, etc.
In The Warlord’s Secret, the readers are thrown into the middle of the heroine’s journey to pay off an ally to defend her kingdom. The readers see her two most important struggles up front: the fact she fears war from unseen attackers and fears what the demon within her will do to her. The external conflict is established: she lives in a world on the verge of war, which means there have been issues for quite awhile.
The readers aren’t starting out with her as a child and watching – they’re flipping to a channel where a movie has been playing for awhile and is already halfway done. As a writer, your job is to immerse your readers somewhere in this movie while interweaving what they need to know about the back story without pages of boring prose.
2. Snag the readers’ attention up front then teach them about the new reality as you go. Curiosity and some uncertainty will challenge readers and make their involvement rewarding.
To establish the fact this isn’t the normal world/reality, step into your imagination and uses your senses to describe it to your readers. What do you feel, see, smell, etc.?
Imagine getting off a plane and walking into an Egyptian bazaar with the task of finding a “My friend went to Cairo and brought me this stupid shirt” t-shirt. You can’t read the signs in Arabic but you start to see patterns in activity – such as people carrying t-shirts coming from one direction – or hear clues from others – such as when the British tourist beside you asked a vendor where the souvenirs shops are.
This is how you start to show the new world to your readers.
3. Give the new reality its own nuances and its own RULES. Sprinkle these throughout the book.
A post-apocalyptic world is easier to create than a parallel world with an alternate reality. In a parallel world, you have to show the differences between our world and the alternate world in a way that won’t take away from the central story. These differences and rules should facilitate and support the alternate reality – how the people behave, how the world operates. You can’t make this alternate reality too perfect or to evident, but you can’t neglect to show it, either. You have to make it seem real in the reality you’ve created.
The reader will respect these rules and will react appropriately when one of these rules is tested.
For example, think about how you react to these statements:
– Vampires walk around in daylight.
– Werewolves come out only when there’s no moon.
– Elves have pointy noses, not pointy ears.
Did these strike you as odd? Probably so. Why? Because long ago, writers established rules on how these mythical creatures look or act. It’s the same for building new worlds/alternate realities.
4. Myth, superstition, history and legends are good ways of establishing a back story for why something is happening or why characters react the way they do.
A lot of times, you need a quick way to explain why the characters in your book think or react a certain way without spending pages describing it. These four are really good at establishing the feeling of: things-are-this-way-because-it’s-the-way-it’s-always-been.
5. Uniformity and consistency are key factors in a world building.
When you make rules, you can’t break them just because. You’ve created a new world, introduced it to your reader, and your reader accepts it. This is a tacit contract that there won’t be any inconsistencies in what you’ve created.
There are exceptions to this, such as, the story you’re telling is about someone who doesn’t fit into the world in which they exist; the realities of the world itself are mean to be challenged and the rules changed; etc.
If you break the rules you create, you need a reason. If you break a rule because you forgot vampires can only come out at night, then you risk losing your reader.