World building is something every author does regardless the genre or location they write in. If a story is set in Chicago as an author I need make my reader feel as if they are there with my characters. Personally, I find this more difficult than creating a totally fictional setting. If I create a world for my story, I alone know the feel of my place so as a writer I share that with my reader.
If I’m writing a murder mystery in Chicago (my favorite city), I will have readers who have been there and have their own impression of the city which may not be as favorable as mine. Also, I don’t live in Chicago but in a much smaller town in Northern Michigan so my impressions are those of a tourist/visitor. These things, in my opinion, make writing a murder mystery in Chicago more difficult than creating someplace fictional.
Sometimes the location has to be fictional. In Treasure Hunt, I wanted a female pirate. She had own ship and was feared. To make this scenario believable in the ‘real’ world would have been near impossible. So I created a world so DeLaney could have her ship….
DeLaney Black Heart is the captain of The Gypsy Princess, the most feared pirate ship on the Cannequ seas, until recently. Her long standing enemy, Falken Sands, is making good on his threat to ruin her. She is in desperate need of a large bounty to soothe her crew and reclaim her title.
My young adult series, The Night of the Gryphon, is a hi-fantasy so another world to create. The Hollow King, the first book, is a quest following six teenagers as they battle things from the nightmare realm, struggle to figure out love, and secure the mystical specter of hope.
In creating worlds for both of these books, I needed to make sure my reader felt and saw what I did. There isn’t a possibility a reader would have gone there. So no referencing the John Hancock building and relying on the fact a reader will know it’s a tall building.
When in The Hollow King, I talk about traveling through the forest surrounding the final battlefield I need to make sure the reader knows this is no typical Bambi hangout. There is orange moss, creepy animals, and the path disappears behind them sealing them inside.
When DeLaney and Raven are kidnapped by water nymphs, I not only had to describe the place where they were taken but the nymphs.
The trick is weaving the description in so they aren’t a grocery list. Personally, I have found the easiest way to do this is by using a tourist POV. When you visit someplace the first time, you don’t notice the smallest details. There are usually two or three things that really grab you – a smell or a sight or a person. The longer you stay the more you notice.
So when DeLaney (Treasure Hunt) or Taraly (The Hollow King) find themselves in a new place, I give the reader their first impression and slowly add as the scene unfolds.
What are some of your favorite settings?