Tuesday, June 2, 2015

World Building for the Literary Challenged

That's right. I'm not afraid to call it that, probably because I fit into the category nicely.
Photo via Unsplash, by Mark Ashtoff
I'm the girl who will never get the gold medal for blocking. (And if I did, Jo Ann Schneider would promptly swoop in and karate chop it out of my hand. (Okay, maybe not. She loves me too much to resort to public humiliation.) But even Jo knows that I think things through before I sit down to a new project. After attending Sara B. Larson's workshop on World Building at LDS Storymakers, I've picked up a bit more on grounding my characters. Granted, I don't require the magic discussion other people do, but there were plenty of items we discussed that are useful in any world, fictional or real.

Don't overdo 
Sometimes authors go overboard with research and world building. Writers need to be thorough, but most of that information will have no place in their stories. It's for their eyes only. Can you imagine if JK Rowling included all the minute details of Quidditch in Harry Potter? (The hardcore Potterheads would have been stoked, but the rest of us wouldn't have made it through Year One.)

Know the basics
Consideration must be made for the customs and architecture of the world. Writers must think about how poverty and wealth affect their civilizations, the environment (rain forest vs. rural Utah) in which they live, how they dress, and what and how they celebrate. Clothes are always a breeze for me because I fall in love with beautiful clothing, shoes, and accessories of any era. Other things are more nebulous at the beginning of a project. Matching the time period with the correct type of housing is always a challenge for me. (It just gives me a reason to Google cool stuff, read more, and watch period movies. Do I look upset about that? Nope!)

Do the homework
Perhaps like me, other writers will find they are weaker in certain aspects of world building. (Please note that I have not touched on the subject of magic and the rules associated with governing it. And I won't. Definitely not my strong suit.) However, there is nothing wrong with reading more books from authors who are fabulous at world building, watching more quality movies, and Googling liberally. In my present story, I'm dealing with lords, ladies, earls, and dukes. You betcha I've been googling the correct usage, correct capitalization, and the correct way to address each of them. Never hurts!

Don't dump
The info dump is the absolute no-no of writing. The world must be revealed as it becomes pertinent to the story and natural to your characters. A big intro on the trade situation at the beginning of your novel will be just right way to get your audience snoozing. No one cares about backstory until they connect with the characters and are drawn in by the twists and turns of an awesome plot. Showcase them and let your world be what it is: the backdrop. Subtlety is the name of the game.

Get writing
Research is all well and good, but it needs to lead to something. Writers must invest the time to create a believable backdrop, but then it's time to get to work! I'd love to tour Europe to gather info for the world my stories are built around, but it's much more important to invest in my characters and storylines. After all, they're they ones who will keep me awake at night if I neglect them.Also, because I rely on other fabulous writers, I find that my writerly friends notice things that I miss. They ask questions and make suggestions that make the writing stronger. Also, I bring a lifetime of research from reading books and watching period movies that I am more than willing to share with them.

Anything I've missed? If you have any tips on World Building, feel free to leave me a comment. And if anyone would LOVE to do (or has already done) a post on magic and the rules that govern magic or any other aspect of World Building, I'd be glad to add a link! Thanks!

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