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Posts Tagged ‘world building’

One of my pet peeves is when a novel has a prologue.

At worse, as a reader, I view the addition of a page or two or more of world, setting, and/or character description before the start of a book’s narrative to be a sign of weak writing. At best, a prologue tells me this author doesn’t have confidence in either their writing or a reader’s ability to grasp the details of their novel’s world unless it is clearly explained.

Even at my jumbled desk in my chaotic office, I can hear the gasps of many of my fellow writers. Yes, yes, I know many fine authors have used a prologue to transition their readers from the mundane world into the universe of their book. And prologues have been en vogue during certain periods of time. But I, for one, never read those prologues! (And I don’t think I’m alone).

A book should begin on page 1!

Drop the reader into your world, then slip in the necessary information about your setting, rules of magic and/or science, the state of religion and politics, the geography, flora, fauna, etc., and the characters’ places in that world bit by bit as you move through the narrative.

And by the way, this does not mean dumping all that information in one place, but rather, judiciously dropping a crumb of info here and there. Readers will pick up those crumbs and begin to understand your world as they become involved with your characters.

Likewise, I rarely read an introduction or foreword. Again, get to the book itself.

Perhaps the only exception to my dislike of extra material prior to the start of a book, is a preface. Letting a reader know why you’ve written a non-fiction book, and your level of expertise on the subject might be important enough to delay the start of the book. Though to be honest, I prefer an author’s note in the back of the book containing that information.

I know there are other opinions on prologues and their kin, but for this reader, they are pages to flip past on my way to page 1.

For another point of view, check out Should You Use a Soft Opening by JA DuMairier on the Thanet  Writers’ site.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
– George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Still reading the Game of Thrones books and hoping to see a new book published in the not too distant future. George Martin is a wonderful stroyteller, whether you choose to delve into his world or not. Yes, there’s violence, language, and sex, but his world building is to be admired.

I like this quote, not just because it shows a wonderful relationship between parent and child, but because of its great truth. To pick up a snake when you’re not afraid of snakes is no act of bravery. To kill a copperhead threatening your children when you’re terrified of snakes, is being brave.

For me, it is a fearful thing to put my stories and artwork out in the public eye. I suppose it’s because I fear my work isn’t good enough. I’ve never been part of “the in group,” so I think I’m pretty sure my creative work—and by extension, myself—will be rejected or thought less than acceptable. Whether in science-fiction and fantasy fandom at cons, at writers’ conventions, bookstore signing, or at an art exhibit—I’m always one step away from running out the door. (Though I’ve been told I hide it well!)

So when you see me at public venues, know I face a fear by being there. I’m not sure if I’m brave, but I do know my heart is racing and my hands are shaking—just a bit—as I pry myself from in front of the computer or drawing board and mingle with readers, writers, and fans.

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Time travel is not only possible, but it occurs thousands of times every day! You see, it happens when a reader suspends their disbelief and enters the world of a story that occurs in the past, the future, or in another world.

I just watched The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian today. The film reminded me of the book of the same name, one of seven that take place in the land of Narnia. Rather than the wardrobe from Book I, an underground train station becomes the portal from England to another place and time for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in Book II. Only a year has past in England since the four siblings returned from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’s adventures, but in Narnia, hundreds of years have slipped by.

 Jubilant to return to Narnia, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy soon discover the time discrepancy and the troubles disrupting the peaceful world they left behind. After many days spent traveling through Narnia and fighting battles beside talking beasts, dwarfs, mobile trees, minotaurs, centaurs, giants, and such – the tales ends with the four children stepping through a doorway of branches to find themselves back in the English train station. And oddly, only a few minutes have passed since they departed. Beloved author, C.S. Lewis, presents different portals in his Narnia books, but the variance in the passage of time is a common thread.

Portals are an oft-used time travel device (in addition to being quite handy for zipping characters from one world to another). Andre’ Norton used a portal to bring her original hero to Witch World. Witch World initially seems to be a place set in the past, but the intrusion of machines in the storyline makes the reader wonder if perhaps it’s a place in the future.

L. Frank Baum utilized a whirling tornado as a portal device to deliver Dorothy to Oz. After days and days of adventures, Dorothy returns to Kansas only a few minutes after she departed. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is another example of a portal transporting the hero from her world to another. A rabbit’s hole serves the function of portal for Lewis Carroll’s book. And again, only a few minutes have passed in the “real” world when Alice returns home from her time-consuming wanderings.

Like many writers before me and some writers who craft stories today, I like to transport readers into the past, the future, or to a different time in a world that I’ve built. Most often, the only portal I use is the turning of a page. The page that carries a reader from their work-a-day world to places where singing opossums or mermaids or dragons or ghosts or zombies or faeries or alien species live their lives to the tick of a different clock. So pick up a book or download a story, and travel through time!

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