My A-Z Blogging theme is to cover 26 touch-me-not categories of fiction writing. These are frequently the trouble spots which can be useful components of the story if handled properly, but when rushed through, can cause all kinds of trouble. While the genre is fantasy, the tips can apply to anything, from romance to literary fiction.
C: Crafting a World
Mordekai took a step back into the half-crumbled tower. He was just about to peer around the edge as though to make sure no enemies remained when the stones underfoot crumbled. He lost his footing and fell to the ground, his sword protectively held in one hand while the other tried to arrest his fall. For a moment, his gloved hand touched the wall, coming into contact with a dusty block of rock and history. Then, with a rumble, the tower gave way.
Mordekai covered his head and hoped there wasn’t enough of the roof left to kill him. He could feel chunks of the wall hitting his back and shoulders or pinging off his helmet, but he remained standing, certain that he’d be buried alive if he fell.
At last the sound subsided. He opened his eyes to find it darker than before. There was no dust, as far as he could tell, and there were no ruins. Instead, there was a beautiful tower, every stone in place in the dim light. There was a layer of dust on the floor, but it wasn’t the “tower just fell down” kind. It was the soft, gray sort that gathered in corners when no one was looking, defying vacuums and running away at the slightest breeze.
“What in the…Monique, you there?” He listened, but there was silence on the other side of the heavy wooden door that now blocked the entrance to the tower. He sheathed his sword and tugged on the metal handle, but it seemed stuck. The hinges did little more than scoff at his efforts. “Monique!”
“I’m here,” came a muffled voice from the other side. “You still alive?”
“I’m talking, aren’t I?”
“Not the best guarantee I’ve ever had.”
Ignoring her comment, he asked, “What happened?”
“I don’t know. The tower started to give way…I might’ve let out a shriek and shielded my camera…”
“And then when you opened your eyes, we were here?”
“Pretty much. What’d you do? Open the door to a wardrobe?”
“Funny. No, I think I found a magic mirror.”
“Any sign of ruby slippers?”
“They were silver in the book.”
“Don’t get all literary-snobbish on me, Kai. We need to get back home, because this isn’t the ruin.”
“I know.” He looked around carefully and a smile expanded across his face. It was better than the ruin. It was an unexpected adventure. “There’s a staircase along the far wall here.”
“That’s no help. This isn’t the time to go exploring. We need to get out of here. I’m supposed to be back at my job in a couple days.”
“I know, I know, but…’Niq, we might’ve gone back in time.”
“Or found a world where there are ogres who eat people. And…Mordecai, remember. In our time, this place is a ruin. Do you really want to hang around to find out what happened to the people who once lived here?”
Yes, I do, he thought as he began to climb the tower. Then he turned back and said, “I’m going to look for a way to get back together first. It’ll be no good for me to find the way back home only to leave you here by yourself.”
“Alright, but…hurry. And…don’t talk to anyone. Don’t explore any creepy corners. And don’t touch anything dangerous!”
“I’m not five, Monique. I’ll be fine.” More than fine. For the first time in ages, he was looking forward to something. He couldn’t wait to reach the top of the stairs and find out what the rest of the castle contained. Would it be empty but complete, just like his tower? Or would there be people there? Had they neglected the tower because the door had jammed, or was it off-limits because it connected to his time…because people would go there and never return?
Truly crafting a word takes time. It takes description. It takes details. It’s hard to introduce a fantasy setting in three hundred words or less.
And creating a believable fantasy world takes time on the author’s part to hone the way the world works. It takes daydreaming and pondering and thinking critically about how the economy, industry, society, and theology interacts, to say nothing of the magic. You spend a lot of “off-page” time figuring out how things work and how they’re different from our world.
But then, once you’ve figured it out, you have to insert it into the story slowly, giving it to the readers in baby-bites. A little here, a little there…otherwise the reader will feel dumped upon. When you first introduce a new world, there are a few ways to quickly establish that your characters “aren’t in Kansas anymore.” Once this is made clear, you can spend the rest of the book (or even the series) exploring and building upon the differences and details of the new world.
- You can change the scenery. When characters go from one place to another, it can become quite clear that something is different. Going from the wardrobe to the snowy woods in Narnia is a great example. The change was clear, concise, and dramatic, and every reader knew that Lucy was no longer in “our world” but somewhere else entirely.
- You can change the time. This is similar to the above scene. They went from ruins to a completed tower, which quickly established that all was not as it had been. (Now, whether they actually went back in time or were transported to another world, where the ruins are still a functioning castle–or an alternate universe, where the castle was never ruined–remains to be seen.)
- You can change the people. Going from a store full of people to one filled with dinosaurs, talking animals, or some other kind of mystical, magical, other-worldly creature would also quickly establish the shift in setting. Alternatively, you can go from an empty place to a full one, or vice versa. Either way, the amount and type of people around can indicate a change in location.
Until the next letter,
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Photo courtesy of gratisography