Monday, November 28, 2011

World Building - part three

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Let's talk about SETTING.

When writing fantasy, you need to decide how different your world is from the contemporary world. Some fantasies are Earth-based, with all the rules of Earth, like gravity. Some fantasy worlds are slightly different. Some are radically different. When choosing your fantasy world, you’ll want to be careful you don’t slip into sci-fi.

Earth-based: the rules of gravity apply, one sun, one moon, weather patterns are similar, north is cold, south is hot, geography/plant life similar.

Earth-like: the rules of gravity apply, one or more suns/moons, weather similar, geography similar, plant life can be similar but maybe with different qualities. If you are using this setting, make sure you have a few things that keep it from being too close to Earth-based.

UnEarth-like: anything goes, although you don’t want space ships or other technology that would make it feel like science fiction.

Remember, your setting is a character in your story. Don't be afraid to put as much research and development into the setting as you do your characters. The setting can enhance the story, add to the tension, and help the protagonist. As you write, ask yourself if you chose the right setting for your hero as well as the story.

Your thoughts? Need help with your setting? Let's talk!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

World Building part two

*Know the rules of your world. You need limitations – but not too many.
*Be specific with your descriptions
*Plant seeds from the beginning
*Make sure knowledge is natural to your character
*Avoid awkward dialog that doesn’t match your world
*Learn the basic craft of writing

Let's break this down and talk about them one at a time. Rules: when I say know the rules of your world, what do I mean? Think about our Earth - the sky is up, the ground is down. There's atmosphere that holds the air we breathe. The sky is blue because of how the sunlight refracts through the atmosphere. There are clouds that bring rain. Storm fronts, cold fronts, warm fronts - these all cause the air to move, sometimes violently. We have gravity. We have one sun and one moon. The Earth spins, giving us day and night. The Earth also tilts, giving us the seasons.

What are the rules of your world? Fantasy and SciFi allow our imaginations to run wild, but the world HAS to fit the story. Is your world radically different from Earth? That's fine, but it still has to be natural and you must keep your rules in mind as you're writing. Be consistent. If you aren't, you'll jerk your reader clean out of your story. And they won't believe you anymore.

Being specific with description: Does this mean you need to set up a couple of pages of description? No, of course not. But you can weave in the "rules" of your world within the action and dialog of the story. Remember, if your world is strangely different from Earth, it's normal for your characters. And you don't have to give every detail - allow for the imagination of the reader. This pulls the reader in and makes them part of the story. We all love it when that happens, don't we?

Dialog that fits your world: is your world futuristic or historical? In Fairyeater, my world is Earth-like except for the three moons. There is no modern conveniences like electricity or machines. The people are simple peasant folk, so their language is simple.

Learn the craft: this barely needs mentioning, but I'm going to say it anyway. It takes more than a good idea to write a great book; there's a craft to it. One of the best books I've read on writing a novel is "Stein on Writing" by Sol Stein. Now, he's not a Christian, so his examples are not always the best for young writers. For you teen writers, I recommend "Seize the Story" by Victoria Hanley.

Get a good book on the craft and learn it. Once you've mastered the craft of writing, you can creatively break the rules. But you don't have to. What does your story require? What does your world require? Only you can determine that.

Share your world with us. I love hearing what you're doing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

World Building, part one

hey FFFers - sorry for the silence. Life has been hectic. Let's get back to talking about fantasy writing. Some of you have sat in my workshop "We're Not In Kansas Anymore." I'm going to use that format here.

Fantasy stories don't only include fairies, elves, dwarves, etc. and magical elements, it also needs a special setting, even if you are writing contemporary fantasy like urban fantasy. When you are developing your characters, don't forget your setting. It's also a character and can add or take away from the action/plot.

First, let's look at the different types of fantasy. This will help you know what you're writing and what kind of world to start building.

• High fantasy
• Urban fantasy
• Steam punk
• Magical realism
• Portal worlds
• Dystopia
• Paranormal

High Fantasy – usually a world other than our Earth. Example: The Lord of the Rings, or The Elfstones of Shannara. It typically includes the usual gang of fantasy characters; dwarves, elves, fairies, etc.

Urban Fantasy (or contemporary fantasy) – kind of a merging with sci-fi, but with definite fantasy elements. Similar to Paranormal, sometimes merging the two. Example: Harry Potter

Steam Punk (trendy historical fantasy) – like Victorian England with certain technologies. A couple of examples are: Around the World in 80 Days, or A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Magical Realism – set in the real world with fantasy elements. Examples: Mudville, Faerie Rebels

Portal Worlds – our world with a portal to another world. Example: Artemis Fowl

Dystopia – post apocalyptic. Example: Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, Bones of Faerie

Paranormal – can be set in the real world with fantasy elements. Similar to Urban Fantasy, but with more of a gothic feel. Example: Twilight

What is the difference between fantasy and contemporary? How did Dorothy know she wasn’t in Kansas anymore?

Your world and characters are what makes the reader know it’s fantasy.

So, let's identify what we're writing before we go on. We've touched on this before, but it's good to refresh. I'll get us started: I am writing high fantasy right now. I have a series I started years ago that was more urban fantasy with a portal world twist. I've left it go for now - it was more of a "practice novel" for me, but maybe someday I'll be able to revise it.

So, let's hear what you're working on!