Category Archives: World Building

Writing Perspective – Day 26 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 26 – Beginnings

The Hook—good beginnings.

Every writer wants his or her work accepted. How do you make a good beginning that will keep the publisher reading your work, and see your story published? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story, poem, or novel. If you don’t grab the publisher in the first few paragraphs it won’t see the light of day.

To help with that, several years ago, I bought a book called Hooked by Les Edgerton. There are a lot of good ideas to not only keep the publisher reading but your reader as well.

The beginning of your book sets up the problem, the scene and you meet the characters. It gives just enough backstory to keep the publisher interested, but not too much that it ends up in the slush pile. You want to avoid the slush pile at all costs.

I’ve heard authors will spend more time on the beginning paragraphs and the first chapter of the book than the rest of the book.

If you don’t know what hooked you with your favorite book, take it off the shelf and read the first paragraph. Not only were you hooked, but more importantly the publisher of that book was too.

I admit I’ve struggled with the opening. I want to get it right. I want to build tension. I want to set the scene. Before I presented Thread of Evidence to my publisher, I read it at Writer’s Guild to get feedback. I value their feedback. I had way too much boring information in the opening paragraphs, boring information best left for other parts of the book and filled in as backstory where it wouldn’t be boring, or taking it out altogether.

You want to give your reader/publisher the setting, what is going on in the opening paragraph. Your publisher/reader needs to know in that opening if they are reading a historical novel, science fiction, contemporary romance, mystery, or another genre.

Does this grab your attention? Why or why not?

————-

Ten-year-old Jo-Ann Carter stood in the drawing room, arms crossed, with a stubborn expression on her face. Her pale green eyes flashed angrily as she watched her mother tie a blue-gray bonnet beneath her chin, matching her long flowing fitted-waist satin and taffeta dress. She stomped her black-shoed foot on the floor, a pout on her face. “I want to go too!”

—————–

That is the opening paragraph of Scarred. Do you want to know what comes next? Wanting to know is the reason behind every book on bookstore shelves and on your bookshelves. You wanted to know what’s next. Keeping your publisher interested will keep your reader interested. Keeping your reader interested will result in books sold and money in your pocket. And that is what every author wants, money in their pocket. It won’t happen without a good beginning. So, get the hook right and you will be on your way.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Dramatic Through Lines

Writing Perspective – Day 24 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 24 – Show vs. Tell

Showing versus telling has been one of those areas that always confused me. However, when I did the research on it, I can say with certainty that yes, yesterday’s example from New Horizon’s – Predators and Blue Fire was a perfect example of Showing.

Not only was I giving you an example of how not to give too much information at once, but also showing you the action instead of telling you what was going on.

When you watch a movie, you don’t need anyone to show you what’s going on in the scene, it’s evident. However, how do you make that same scene come alive in a book so the reader can see the scene in their head as they read? You do it through showing.

Show the reader a person is cold with stamping feet, shivering, blowing on mitten-less, glove-less hands, fog in the air as the character breathes. Those are clear images of showing. Don’t just say your character is cold. You’ve done nothing to show your reader.

Dress your reader in layers – a heavy knit sweater, wool knit hat, large overcoat. What time of year is it? Sweat dripped from his brow and clung in cloying stickiness to his skin. Snow crunched underfoot. He had to crack the ice in order to get water from the well. Humidity hung in the air and took the breath away as she stepped outside. Her nostrils felt like they would freeze together as she stepped into the windless starry night. Color flooded the landscape and crunched underfoot as she walked in the countryside. The air was soft and gentle, the trees budded with new life. Green tongues poked their way through the earth after a fiercely cold winter.

Can you see it? Can you feel it? That’s showing and that’s what you want your reader to see and feel when you write your stories. There are times when you need to tell. Keep the telling to a minimum.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Avoid Shortcuts

Writing Perspective – Day 21 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 21 – Culture

When you start with your idea, you put your characters in a setting and give him or her a personality, good or bad, along with all the problems that culture brings with it. You decide.

Today I conclude the science fiction world-building series with culture. Culture ties in everything discussed in world-building – environment, history, inhabitants, religion, and magic. Who you are is your culture. It is found in every genre, not only science fiction. Culture encompasses the food you eat, where you live, customs, religion, language, technology or lack thereof, government, money, occupations and the list expands. Everything revolves around culture.

As the author you have complete say over your characters, what they believe, where they live, this planet or another, how they live – rich or poor, who has authority over them – government, friends, parents. You make the rules and you must follow the rules you make. Your reader will accept your story if you stick to your rules.

Think about every book you’ve read, every movie you’ve seen. What did you like about it or not like? Did it stick to the rules the author laid out? Was the culture clearly seen in the way everyone related to each other?

Think about the earth. Where do you live, what is your culture? Could you easily move to another place on the planet and adapt to that culture or would there be culture shock as you got used to another society’s ways?

As the writer, how do the characters adapt if you relocate them to another city or country on your planet? Is the currency the same? There are a lot of variables to think about.

I recommend choosing a few basics so the reader doesn’t need to think about how everything works together because it does. Do you have anything to add to culture or any other aspect of world-building?

Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Self-Publishing

Writing Perspective – Day 20 of 31

By Valerie Routhieaux

Day 20 – Magic

I hope some of you look forward to these tips and I’m glad I can help. I’m not an expert. This is what I’ve gleaned in my time as a writer and now author.

I’m still going through the world-building points. There are six of them. This one is the fifth—magic.

Magic is a broad field. It can come from any direction. Through science, through the supernatural, through technology.

Consider what you know today and where you are technologically. Now place this same knowledge in a different by-gone era and people would accuse you of witchcraft. We know the supernatural exists. All religions have some basis in the supernatural. It isn’t a far stretch of the imagination to tap into the supernatural.

You also don’t need to use the supernatural or magic in science fiction alone. Consider the best-selling book of all time, the Bible. God presents His people with signs and wonders throughout the Old Testament with the plagues of Egypt, and Elijah calling down fire from heaven and going to heaven in the whirlwind. In the New Testament, you have Jesus’ resurrection, and signs and wonders done by the apostles. These are factual representations of a mighty God.

As a Christian author, I showed God’s mighty power with the supernatural in two of my published books, Manifest Destiny and Freedom’s Cry. Magic can be presented in different ways. Consider JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Not everyone had magic and not all magic was good, some were bad.

How you present magic will bring your reader into your world or leave him or her standing at the door. It must be done in such a way that it’s natural to the story.

Is magic something your characters dabble in and learn, fearful that anything will happen and what happens when something does? Is magic a way of life for the people of your world and everyone has magic, some more than others? Is magic a magicians’ conjuring trick? Admit it, you enjoy a good magician’s trick. You’ve even tried it yourself.

When considering magic as the main topic of your story, you need to present it at the beginning. Even if your main character is unaware of his or her ability with magic, it must be shown at the onset of your story. Then your audience will be waiting for it to manifest in your character or will wonder how he or she will use their magic.

You can also use magic as a surprise element for your character. Again, it must be a natural outcome for the character, even if it is a surprising one. Once presented, your audience will wonder what’s going to happen next. Don’t disappoint them.

There’s also magic in the world around you. Watch nature and see how it fits together. It’s an amazing world we live in. Use it in your writing to help develop your characters. You never know where you’ll find a bit of magic.

Have you tried using magic in your writing?

Tomorrow’s Perspective: Culture