5 World-Building Tips to Write a Captivating Novel

Today’s guest post is by Dario Villirilli.

In storytelling, world building is the process of constructing an (often imaginary) world in which the story takes place. The art of creating new worlds is essential for  the sci-fi or fantasy writer, but it’s helpful for writers of other genres too, as it is part and parcel of crafting powerful settings.

Mastering world building, however, can be quite a challenge: for entirely fictional worlds, you’ll have to introduce lots of novel concepts and details without confusing, overwhelming, or boring the reader (whereas setting your story in our world can be slightly more straightforward).

So, if you want to learn more about it or simply improve your craftsmanship, here are five tips to create fascinating new worlds.

1.   Draw inspiration from real places.

It might seem daunting to imagine a brand-new environment, but it doesn’t have to be. Our own planet has plenty of unique and awe-inspiring places that might as well belong on another planet. Take the dramatic Zhangjiajie mountains in northeast China (which inspired Avatar’s Pandora), the Peruvian city of Huacachina, built in a desert oasis, or the Mars-like landscape of the Atacama desert in Chile—aren’t they “out of this world”?

So, put your Curious Researcher’s hat on, and start Googling places that could inspire your story. Spend some time learning about the flora, fauna, and customs of people living in those areas. Keep your favorite details, and build on top of them by adding layers of new technology and magic.

Having a reference point will help you detail your world faster and better bring your setting to life. You’ll be able to create something that stretches the reader’s imagination … but still feels real. Continue Reading…

How to Write When You Don’t Want To: An Uncommon Approach

Today’s guest post is by Michelle Boyd.

It’s early. The apartment is quiet. My calendar’s clear and my phone’s on Do Not Disturb. I’ve got all the time in the world to write … but I don’t want to.

It doesn’t matter that the conditions are perfect, or that I’ve been looking forward to this quiet time for days. The fact is, I’m dreaming of my winter garden. I’m busy planning holiday menus. And there’s a knitting project calling to me from the comfy chair in my living room.

It all adds up to the same old thing: I want the writing to be done. But I don’t want to have to do it.

When this happens, I sometimes go down a dreadful path, berating and judging myself, wondering why I’m being so “lazy.” I do this even though I know, from research, personal experience, and a decade coaching other writers that there are kinder, more effective strategies for getting ourselves to write when we don’t want to.

The one I’d like to suggest? Lie. Continue Reading…

Bringing Setting to Life through Your Characters’ Emotions

Here’s a post I wrote some years ago that is worth revisiting!

One of the reasons readers willingly immerse themselves in a story is to be transported. Whether it’s to another planet, another era—past or future—or just into a character’s daily life, readers want to be swept away from their world and into another—the world of the writer’s imagination.

It’s challenging for writers to know how much detail to put in scenes to effectively transport a reader. Too much can dump info, drag the pacing of the story, and bore or overwhelm. Conversely, too little detail can create confusion or fail to evoke a place enough to rivet the reader.

In addition to knowing how much detail to show, writers have to decide what kind of details to use. I often read scenes in the manuscripts I critique, for example, that have characters engaging in lots of gestures, such as rubbing a neck, bringing a hand to a cheek, pushing fingertips together, turning or moving toward something—all for no clear reason.

Showing body movement, gestures, and expressions can be an effective way to indicate a character’s emotional state, but this needs thoughtful consideration so that the gesture or expression packs the punch desired.

I’d like to speak to the importance of showing setting—and not just showing it in any old way. What is key to creating a powerful setting is to show it through your character’s POV and in a way that feels significant. Continue Reading…

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