The art of world building

I read an interesting post by Nathan Bransford today where he posed the question, “if you could live in the world of one novel, which one would you choose?” Now, I always like questions like this, maybe because the nerd in me likes imagining what life would be like if I were in each of the worlds I read about.  I’ve come to a few conclusions over the years; I wouldn’t want to be in any of these sword and sorcery novels where I’d have to do a lot of running, and nothing where my life is constantly in danger or where the world is very uncomfortable.  And by uncomfortable, I mean worlds like Cherie Priest’s “Boneshaker” where you have to walk around with a gas mask to breath the air and there are gangs of super-fast zombies traveling around.  In fact, any world with zombies is automatically O-U-T.

Which leads me to the one series I would like to live in: Harry Potter.  Who didn’t see that one coming? Embarrassingly enough, from the comments it looked like about 90% of the people answering wanted to live at Hogwarts.  So, instead of being bothered by my lack of originality, I decided to take a closer look at why everyone wants to be a wizard in the world of Harry Potter.

What’s there not to love about Hogwarts? Before going, you’re told you are special and belong in this whole other, better world, where you can do magic, live in a really amazing castle, and take classes that are full of fun things like how to ride a broomstick or transform items into other items (and honestly, even potions seemed like a pretty cool thing to learn).  True, there’s that whole He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named thing, but really, it seems like a small price to pay.

J.K. Rowling is able to create a whole separate world, with so much detail and so many fun little facts that it feels like a real place.  And while I’ve read many other books that accomplish this just as well (see “Boneshaker” above), none of them seem nearly as fun.  This is why I think the Harry Potter books are so popular; the characters are good and the storyline is good, but again, I’ve read books that are just as good and better.  But the world of Harry Potter is such a fun place that readers love these books, just for the chance to belong in that world for a couple of hours.

I’m still working on the art of world building in my own work.  I know the key is including plenty of little details that might feel insignificant or pointless at first, but that illustrate how this new world is different from other worlds.  If done right, these little details will eventually tie in to the main plot, becoming important, much like the room of requirement in the Harry Potter series, which started out as a comment from Dumbledore about a room full of chamber pots in the first book and became very significant in later books.  But what else do you need to do to make your world come alive? Suggestions? Comments? Thanks, and happy writing!

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Published in: on May 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm  Comments (6)  
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Harry Potter and the loss of my ambition

Sorry for the long delay in posts–I was spending some time hiking in Arizona, and then being lazy when I got back.

Hiking in Sedona

Anyways, today was my first official “writing as career” day, which was awesome! Too bad Harry Potter almost ruined everything.  How, you ask? Well, about a week ago I decided to re-read the first HP book, just to get in the flow, and wham! Suddenly I found myself reading all the time–I’m now halfway through the fifth book and my desire to do anything other than read Harry Potter has faded away.  My husband is especially annoyed by this.  Direct quote: “whenever you start reading Harry Potter everything else goes downhill; you stop writing, the house gets messy, you ignore your husband, etc., etc.”  I realized he was right, and last night I reluctantly put the book away.

This morning, I got up at 6:30 am, prepared to put in my first long day of writing in a long time, when I just happened to glance at my bedside table to see book five staring over at me.  I tried to ignore it as I packed up my computer.  Hem, hem, went the book.  I turned my back on it and started making my lunch.  Hem, hem.  Well, I decided, one little page won’t hurt.  Maybe I’ll read for five minutes and then go…and before I knew it, it was almost 8:00, and suddenly I was battling the parking lot that the highway is at that time to get to a coffee shop.  Why couldn’t I just work at home? Well, see above about the problem with reading Harry Potter, and imagine what your house would look like if you stopped putting away laundry, or doing dishes, or anything, for a week and a half.  It’s not a pretty picture, trust me.

Anyhow, that’s one of my big problems–when I get into a book or series, I get really into it, and I find it hard to do my own writing.  I know that reading is an important part of being writer, so I’ll just have to learn some self-control.  However, I did manage to put in three hours of work today on the sequel to my first book.  I now have the first chapter and a half done (3,267 words).  So, all in all, not a bad start.

Hem, hem

 

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 7:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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