Monday, November 12, 2012

Free Expressions Takeaway Part III: Building Imaginary Worlds

I used to think world building just pertained to creating a science fiction or fantasy world. And although it is generally associated with those genres, all novelists must create believable, fictional worlds in which reader immerses themselves.  

For example, even though Half-Truths takes place in a "real" time and place-- Charlotte, NC in the 1950's--I must show the sights, sounds, smells, textures, emotional tone, and sociological and political atmosphere of the two areas of the city in which my story unfolds. There is historical data which helps me construct this world such as this 1939 article from The Charlotte Observer:



It is my job as a novelist to weave this information into the fabric of the world I am building. What will it mean to my white and black characters that there is a separate hospital for Negroes? A lot. 
Here are a few takeaways from Brenda Windberg's class on world  building:

  • Consider the psychological and political world of your character. There is always someone who has power and people who rebel.
  • The structure of your character's existence will create the context of your story.
  • Describe concrete, highly specific worlds. It should be fully immersive because of the high level of specificity.  Brenda used the Harry Potter Theme Park as an example of the huge amount of details which JK Rowling included in her books; this makes the theme park a totally immersive experience. 
  • Writers must ask questions such as: "What if?" "Why" and "Why not?" Find the boundaries of your world--which is more than just a physical world. 
  • Brenda's advice: "The rules and parameters of your character’s emotional reality can set the tone for your world."
  •  Use details in a way that adds emotional content. Let them show a purpose. The place the character’s eye goes to is what you record. “Let your character react to details, don’t note them.”
  •  Limit what the reader needs to know to propel the story forward. Weave this through your story. Readers want to experience the world as they come into it. 
Our incredible Free Expressions leaders:
Lorin Oberweger and Brenda Windberg
Brenda generously shared her two handouts from the class. You can access them here:
World Building Exercises
Description as a World Building Tool 

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Since  I have a lot to say about writing a tight query letter, I'm going to save that for the next blog post. 

If you missed the first two blogs in this series, here they are:
Free Expressions Takeaway Part I- Voice and Deep Point of View
Free Expressions Takeaway Part II- Deep Scene


7 comments:

Linda A. said...

Carol,
One comment stuck out for me--the importance of reacting to details in the setting and not just noting them. Great reminder! Thanks again for this terrific series and experience.

Kathy B said...

Dear Carol,
Once again, your timing is great. I have been working on rewriting details of the setting in my story in response to comments from my long distance critique. This will definitely help me to let the reader experience the setting! Thank you Carol and thank you Brenda Windberg for sharing your knowledge!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathy and LInda. Glad this post was useful to you both!

Rebecca Petruck said...

Thanks for sharing all this helpful information from what seems to have been an amazing conference!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Go, Carol. I like the way you explain things clearly!

It seems this workshop is really helping you!

Go, Carol.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, JOan. It has helped me a TON!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

You're very welcome. Enjoy your day being your sweet talented self.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards