This month, we’re talking about world building. Many don’t realize this, but in picture books, illustrators don’t just draw pictures to “go along with” the words. Rather, they tell the other half of the story. Yes, you read that right: 50%!
Of course, while my illustrators have told me that my words have inspired their “vision”, I’d venture to say that they’ve taken my original idea to heights I’d never even imagined and have placed the story and characters in the most magnificent settings!
I suppose that’s why they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But what happens when one is writing a novel and hasn’t the luxury of pictures? Then we must become artists with our word choices. Think about your favorite novels for a moment. Doesn’t the author paint those pictures in your head, where the story rolls out like an award-winning movie?
First of all, when writing a story, one must decide the “setting” (or world.) Most people realize setting is a place, but what they don’t often think about is that it’s also about time. Does your story happen in modern day, historical or futuristic times? What about seasons? Is your scene taking place in the morning or at midnight?
Remember that we want to invite our readers into this world, so we have to ensure they’re on firm footing. If it’s a contemporary work, we are dealing with rules most are familiar with. But if we’re describing something different, whether it be outer space, inner space, or an entire new dimension, it’s important to provide not only the physical entity and time period, but the “rules of the house” as well.
The thing about world building is that it doesn’t have to be real, but it does have to be believable.
Once this is determined, one can start adding color, texture and depth to the palette. It’s all about detail and layering.
Have you heard the saying, “Show, don’t tell”? We can write (tell) that a character is scared, but if we show him/her that our character’s hands are shaking and he’s holding his breath, our readers begin to feel the fear as well. The same idea may be applied to world building.
Ultimately, we must be artists with our words. There’s a quote I love that sums it up perfectly:
For example, instead of telling readers, “It was windy.”
We can say:
“The scent of lilacs ticked his nose as the wind whispered secrets into his ears.”
It’s the difference between plain “blue” water...
and “an ocean of shimmering turquoise and aquamarine.”
Where would you rather swim? What world would you rather immerse yourself in?