World building and believability. (Another look at POSSESSION.)

I hear it all the time. World building. Details. But not just any details. Ones that are important to the story and reveal the world and play an important role in the story.

In any world, not just fantasy or dystopian, we want to make it believable.

Elana Johnson in her novel, POSSESSION, added some cool gadgets to Vi’s world that reflected the futuristic society and played an important role in the story.

Ecomms, robots, implanted tags that track people, hovercopters, tech-cuffs that leave your wrists red and inflamed, cell phones that do everything even taser people from across the room, cubes that make meals appear, healing lotion, sticker rings, walls that can listen and talk…the list goes on.

I loved these gadgets in POSSESSION. And they made Vi’s world extremely believable.

What details can you add to your character’s world, even if it’s contemporary fiction, that reflect your character and tie in with her external and internal conflict?

Tall order, I know.

What books have you read with great world building? Examples?

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24 Responses to World building and believability. (Another look at POSSESSION.)

  1. Miranda Hardy October 3, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    I enjoyed the world building n Delirium. Its not easy to build a believable world.

  2. Sarah October 3, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I’ve been reading ROOM, which is pretty much all about world building! Of course, it’s the real world, but from the perspective of a 5yo whose entire universe is a 12×12 room. Managing that perspective had to have been difficult, and it was all the little details, rendered consistently, that made it work.

  3. Laura October 3, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I’m looking forward to reading both of those books! I can imagine both would require excellent world building. I’m getting there Delirium is by my bed and Room is at my library.

  4. anne gallagher October 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m a sucker for the classics in world building. Dickens is my favorite.

  5. Kris October 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    World Building, Setting, where the heck does the story take place? I wrote a whole script for a vlog on setting, and can’t find my notes…

    So important for any book.

    That said, did you read about Elana’s new book? I thought it was more companion, but I read the blurb this morning and it sounds like it explores more of Vi’s story from another person’s perspective. Which I think is cool!

    • Laura October 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      Yes, I read the blurb for Surrender and it sounds awesome! Can’t wait for it.

  6. Ava Jae October 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Ooo, what a good question. I’ll have to remember to ask that one as I work on rewrites.

    Possession sounds like a great book. I might have to check that one out…

  7. Kelly Polark October 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    I loved Possession!
    And I loved all those gadgets. The one I want most is the one that makes me pink cake. 🙂 Or the teleporter…

  8. Stina Lindenblatt October 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Okay, I had to crack up when I saw your title, Laura. It looks like we called each other up to discuss what we’re wearing, I mean, what we’re blogging about today. 😀

  9. Lydia K October 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    I thought the world building in Shipbreaker was amazing. It wasn’t all techy gadgets but it was such a solid world!

  10. Lisa Green October 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I’ve always had to work hardest at world building. When I look at things through my character’s eyes, it becomes much easier. Hunger Games has great world building. Mistwood is AMAZING because it’s high fantasy, but not bogged down at all with extraneous details or long winded descriptions.

  11. Jenny Lundquist October 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I thought MATCHED had great world building. Also, the CHAOS WALKING series by Patrick Ness. I have to admit since I write contemporary fiction, I struggle with world building. Am going to think more about this when I finally get around to working on my WIP today. Thanks Laura!

  12. Susan Sipal October 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I LOVE worldbuilding. Perhaps I get too carried away with it, but it’s just so much fun to add in these details that can carry so much meaning. And, of course, when speaking of worldbuilding, I have to mention the power of Potter. JK Rowling just has such a detailed, and fun, eye for it.

  13. Talli Roland October 3, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    That is a tough question! I think knowing your environment so you can add all those little critical embellishments is very important.

  14. Karen Strong October 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    I think BLOOD RED ROAD by Moira Young had excellent world building.

    • Laura October 3, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

      Sometimes I won’t notice when the world building is weak but I notice when it is done well. If setting or the world is confusing, then I’m not happy.

      Thanks everyone!

  15. Leigh Moore October 4, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    everyone seems to be talking about this lately… I don’t write fantasy, but I do love setting and making sure there are little *things* in my characters’ worlds that add interest. It’s such an easy trick, and it’s good to be reminded of it. Thanks, Laura! :o) <3

  16. WritingNut October 4, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    I love Possession, and Elana’s world building… it was awesome and drew me right in! 🙂

  17. Lynda R Young October 4, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I love the world building in Perdido Street Station. It’s so rich in detail.

  18. Traci Kenworth October 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I think it’s important to get in as many items as might be along the lines of familiarity to the reader (such as advanced cell phones, robots etc.) so as to ground them in the world and bring believability into it.

  19. Patti October 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Me and my husband were just talking about this because we watched the movie Thor (sorry no books). He said even though the concept was totally out there, it was believable because they stuck to the rules and didn’t change something at the end, just to make the plot work. I think that’s important in world building is sticking to the rules you create, which can be harder than you think.

  20. Margo Berendsen October 4, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    I just finished reading a book by Robin McKinley and was wondering just how she pulls off her world-building so impressively. I think its because she takes ordinary things that we are all familiar with (e.g. making a cup of tea or coffee) and then puts a fantastic spin on them. So its familiar, but suddenly, wow!

    I’m currently reading Divergent and the world building is not so great. It’s the action and characters that are pulling me along here. I think wih the world building, there are lots of familiar things, like gang initation, but not enough of a unique twist to get me really excited.

  21. Jemi Fraser October 4, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    I agree – Elana did a great job of world building. Loved the gadgets!

    I’ve always thought the world of Pern by Anne McCaffrey was extremely well developed. So vivid. JD Robb also does a terrific job of letting us see NY in 2060!

  22. Leslie Rose October 5, 2011 at 2:32 am #

    World building feeds the scenic designer in me. I thought the gadgets in POSSESSION were beyond cool. I also loved the division of the world itself and the clear identities of each place. THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness builds an intriguing new planet with many relatable characteristics of Earth twisted just a bit.

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