Tag Archives | world building

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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Freeze pops and world building.

World building. Books and blog posts have been devoted to world building. It’s important, not just in high fantasy novels but in contemporary work too.

World building affects your story logic. And if you have faulty story logic…you’ll be rewriting.

So, knowing all this as a writer, when I told my son, “You can have a freeze pop any time of the day, but you can only have three per day.” – I should have written down the rules in stone. (In my defense, I was really tired of being asked if he could have a freeze pop, and really, it doesn’t matter when he eats one.)

What I didn’t expect:

  • That he’d eat three in a row.
  • That he’d eat one before breakfast.
  • That he’d eat one right before dinner.
  • That the freeze pop could be eaten along with dessert but not count as dessert.
  • Roll over. If we were gone for the day, it meant he could have six the next day.

So, go check your world building. Ask the questions. Or you’ll pay the price later. Just like I did.

What are the questions? I’m sure there are lots of great questions about world building. But two big issues stick out for me.

Consistency: Make sure the same rules apply to all characters in all situations through out your story. No cheating.

Motivation: What is the motivation behind a world building rule? Use common sense. Don’t create a rule just to make something easier for your plot.

Tell the truth – Have you ever made a decision as a parent and not thought through the consequences? Or, what are some good world building questions you’ve learned? (By the way, I don’t regret telling my son he could have a freeze pop any time of the day because it still made my summer a whole lot easier! I just should have added some disclaimers.)

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Questions to ask before cutting/adding description.

Description sometimes gets a bad rap, but once mastered, adds great depth to a story. Here is my boring post for the week. Please, go back and read other posts for any hint of humor if you start yawning.

  1. Is your description filled with cliches and well-worn similis? Rewrite.
  2. Do you describe your setting or character as a long paragraphed laundry list? Rewrite. Use one line of description when a character is introduced, but then intersperse extra description through the action and dialogue tags.
  3. Does your description of setting take place in the middle of the scene? Move closer to the beginning.
  4. Did your word choice play double duty? Did they not only describe but help set the mood? Or reveal subtle clues about the character?
  5. Do you end up focusing on one part of the face all the time? You know those ochre-golden-shimmering eyes? Eyes are good, but you can use other parts of the body to show emotion.
  6. Alliterative Allomorph says: Is your book full of descriptions and backstory that you ‘think’ your reader needs to know?  Copy and paste all of your descriptive paragraphs into another document, so that you are only left with the present action. You’ll probably find your plot moves along at better pace. Your readers need to spend time with your characters. Let your readers discover who your characters are for themselves, instead of you telling them who they are. 
  7. Tina Lee says: Does your description follow the route your eyes would? Especially in the case of character description, don’t jump from the face to feet and back again. 
  8.  Kris says: Do you rely on adverbs? My tip – lately I’ve been trying to be conscious of limiting the adverbs to describe action. Use action to describe action. It’s hard, though. Instinctively, I want to use adverbs…slowly, guiltily, weirdly.
  9.  Lisa Green says:  Do you have more description about the beautiful lilies lining the path to the gate or even the hot and mysterious boy with the smoldering eyes than you do of your MC’s actions and reactions? If so, you better go back and figure out what you’re trying to get across to the reader. (I like this one. Proportion. What you are describing should be important to the story.)
  10. Catherine says: Do you find yourself using the same descriptive words and phrases over and over?  Use find and replace to catch those pesky buggers.

Help me fill out the list because I can’t handle being boring any longer today.  Write your question in the comments below along with a suggested answer, and if I pick your question, I’ll include a link to your blog or website. You can focus on any kind of description – setting, character, action, world building. Share your knowledge! Thanks. 

 Update: Thanks for participating and commenting. Great advice! Feel free to add your advice in the comments!

And check out this recent post from Gail Carson Levine’s blog on description and thoughts!  Scroll down to Feb. 24th for the right post. Great advice.

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