Thursday, September 1, 2011

Worldbuilding--It's More Than A Map

Today I'm guest blogging over at The Story Siren. on the topic of World Building.

The term “worldbuilding” is often associated with fantasy fiction, because fantasy writers have so many options when it comes to setting.

Yet all novelists engage in worldbuilding, even for stories set in the so-called “real world.” My Heir Chronicles contemporary fantasy series is set in Ohio. Yes, there’s less ‘splainin’ to do about a contemporary Midwestern world, but I can’t assume that all of my readers have been here. And even if they have, it’s detail and specificity that will bring them back.

Also accuracy. If you get something wrong in a real-world setting, you will receive emails. Any reader who spots an error will be thrown completely out of the story and spend the rest of the book looking for the next mistake. Whether you write contemporary real-world fiction or epic fantasy, the reader must have confidence that you know what you’re doing.

Although I’ve been to most of the settings used in The Heir Chronicles, I still spent time researching so I could get it right. In one of the scenes in The Warrior Heir, the warrior Jack Swift and his Aunt Linda take refuge in St. Margaret’s Church, a real church next to Westminster Abbey in London. I’ve been to St. Margaret’s, but I couldn’t remember whether or not there were pews in there. I spent considerable time on the church website and travel sites, trying to find an interior view of the church.

World-building goes beyond landscape to social and cultural elements. Seph McCauley, one of the characters in The Wizard Heir, is Catholic. I don’t happen to be Catholic, so I did some fact-checking with my Catholic friends.

By now, you’re saying to yourself, “Maybe I’ll write high fantasy set in a made-up world. I won’t have to do any research and I won’t get any emails.”

Sorry, but no. Epic fantasy writers have to work much harder to put the reader in a world they’ve never been to and entice them to stay. It’s even more challenging because, like as not, the writer has never been there, either. The old adage, “Write what you know,” doesn’t work here.

Or does it? How do you go about creating a world that the reader believes in? You mingle the familiar and the fantastic.

Now coast on over to The Story Siren to read the rest!


Valen Steel said...

Thanks so much! That was really helpful. I follow Kristi as well, so I will def be checking out the entire post!!


Natalie Aguirre said...

Such great advice on world building. Thanks so much. I can't wait to read your new book.

Cindy Choi said...

OMG thanks so much. This part was so helpful, "I created it for an adult high fantasy series called The Star-Marked Warder. Though I never finished it, I’d written 500,000 words. I knew this world really, really well. I had a map, a history, and characters that I loved" I'm spending so much time researching my world that sometimes I wonder if I'm wasting my time, but I can't seem to put the pieces together without all the research. Eternally grateful for the link to the worldbuilding questions too.

Anonymous said...

I definitely thought you were Catholic with the bit about the Latin Mass in Wizard Heir and "movable feasts" from Warrior Heir.