A commentor here observed that the Merchant and Empire books are set in a small world. It’s an interesting observation, and one that deserves some thought, because a lot of fantasy and sci-fi books seem to sprawl. They cover an epic-worth of territory, sometimes by design, sometimes just because it seems traditional.
But not all stories need sprawling worlds. Some books, even novels or series, fit better in a small space, a human or other person sized space. Which is sometimes difficult to do.
No, this is not a new version of two-finger-typing for those endowed like Cyrano de Bergerac. It is about adding a new layer of reality and depth to your setting and scene description, and about playing up the differences between characters. Read more
I recently finished slogging through a non-fiction book for Day Job. The book is very well written, but has a cast of hundreds, covers at least six states, and provides no background. The authors are telling the story of a small group of people involved in the Civil Rights movement, so their focus is appropriate. But I kept falling out of the book thinking, “Sheesh, I know why this happened, and I know what that term means, but I bet other folks are really going to be confused.” Unless you already know a great deal of history, the adventures take place in a vacuum. Read more
A friend was bemoaning the necessity of making a world the other day. Now, since I happen to think that is one of the fun parts of pre-planning a story, I found his reluctance baffling. So I decided to think about how to do such a thing in a methodical fashion.
With my gaming dice. 😀
Now, first and foremost are the plot requirements of the story that’s being planned. They can load the dice at any point, including backing up and rerolling four steps ago.
So let’s start with the big picture.
A star, or stars. Roll a die. Read more
So, you have amazing nifty sources and details for your world. Now all you need is a story to stuff them into! That is, without having too much of a good thing. James A. Michener was (in)famous for starting a novel about, oh the Front Range of Colorado with the Laramide orogeny and then working forward 70-80 million years before introducing his first human characters. OK, maybe not that bad—he starts in the Pleistocene*… That’s taking world building too far, unless there is an in-story reason for it. You also don’t want a series of info-dumps loosely connected by a character. (Parts of Dune might be an exception, but most of us are not Frank Herbert, and he was writing a milieu novel that happened to have an adventure story tucked into it.)
So what do you do? Read more
So you decide you want to create a new world for your characters to play in, or you get the wild idea—after one too many children’s dinosaur books read at bedtime—to write a story where the dinosaurs didn’t get offed by [insert disaster here]. Or a world where reptiles rule. Or whatever.
You can just start writing whatever pops into mind and hope for the best. Or you can do some research. Me being me, I research. But where do you start? Read more
Something fantasy this way comes…
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about using folktales in fiction, especially fantasy. I bought a CD of Songsmith, filk written to go with the novel of that title. The book was a collaboration set in Andre Norton’s Witchworld, and the songs are about events in the book, or are referred to by one of the main characters (a bard). Norton uses a lot of folk tale and historical references in the Witchworld series, but so deftly that unless you are really looking for them, you’ll miss how she weaves them in.
That’s what I want to focus on. Not on re-working fairy tales and folk-tales as Mercedes Lackey, Diana L. Paxton, Robin McKinley, and others have done, but using details from folk-tales and history as story elements. Read more