Monday, February 13, 2017

Love The Novel World You Create—But Not Too Much

Edie Melson




I write weird stuff.

In addition to writing nonfiction, I am a speculative fiction novelist. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, speculative fiction is the umbrella that fits over the genres of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, etc. I love it all, but my specialty is science fiction.

I was destined for this world of weirdness. I grew up in the sixties. One of my fondest memories is of sitting on my father’s lap, watching the original Star Trek series. For me, writing science fiction is like coming back home.

So what does this all have to do with the focus of this post?

Being a scifi writer means I create worlds . . . from scratch. I invent the science, determine the natural laws, populate them with strange creatures, and even stranger flora. Effective world building is foundational for the kind of books I write. It’s important in every novel, but it takes on added importance when the reader is dealing with a setting made up entirely from the author’s imagination.

For example, it’s not possible for me to mention my heroine is climbing through an abandoned spaceship hatch embedding in the talarium-coated rock face to get outdoors where the Laisa trees are in bloom and expect my readers to visualize what I’m describing.

I spend a lot of time creating my world and pulling it together in ways that don’t contradict.

For me, this is a labor of love.

As a matter of fact, I love it so much, that I now find myself doing it without thinking. Imagining worlds that don’t yet exist are an integral part of the daydreams that come upon me unaware.

I do have a system I use when I’m past the daydream stage and into the roll-up-my-sleeves-and-get-writing stage.



My World Building Checklist:

1. Believability: It doesn’t matter if my story takes place in small town USA or on board a spaceship. I must infuse the place with believability. For example, I can’t place my heroine in an aircar that flies hundreds of miles per hour and not provide her with a safety harness for her seat. As a speculative author, it’s imperative we make certain the science—and magic—of the place we’re creating makes sense.

2. Terminology: The world I build must have the flavor of the environment I’m trying to convey. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a different country or a unique time in history or created world, I still need “otherness” in the setting. That means made-up words, different plant and animal life, and even a different way of measuring time and distance.

I want to flavor my out-of-this-world setting, but I don’t want the reader to become overwhelmed. Have you ever spent more time looking up words in the glossary at the back of the book than you have reading the actual book? So if I add too much story world detail, it’s like making a pot of chili and throwing in a cup of hot sauce—it’s just not fun to swallow.

3. Flora, Fauna and Physical Locale: I remember reading a book—from a well-known author—that took place in Houston, TX. The opening scene had her perched high on a hill overlooking the city. Hills are not part of the Houston environment. I lived there, and the nearest hill is hours away and the city is not visible from it. As a speculative author, I don’t have to worry about real-life inhabitants fussing because I got the setting wrong. (At least I hope I don’t!) But I still have to make sure the topography makes sense. A big part of the imagery comes in description. I have to provide just enough of a snap-shot to anchor my reader without overwhelming them with pointless details. I also want to leave room for them to have fun filling out the scene themselves. Speculative audiences are an imaginative lot. Once they have a good grasp of where they are, they can fill in some of the details—and they enjoy doing that. It’s part of the whole reading-spec-fiction experience.

4. Dialect and Language: Obviously a novel that takes place on another planet or in another dimension doesn’t have English as the foundational language. But if we wrote the book in a created language it won’t be read. So how do we convey a touch of foreignness without leaving the reader grasping for a possible meanings?
·      Sprinkle in some made-up words with plenty of context to make the meaning clear. For example: Even as the voice in the earpiece sounded, Josiah smiled at her. “Don’t worry, Bezek bellows like a bovine, but is gentle as a hesit.”
·      Utilize a different sentence structure. For example, in a normal conversation we’d say: She turned her head slowly, afraid of the pain, but only felt a slight echo of the injury. In a spec fiction book I’d change it to: She slowly turned her head, afraid of the pain, but only felt a slight echo of the injury. It’s a small change, but that kind of misplaced modifier will give the story a hint of foreignness.
·      Give them a different way to measure time and distance. As I mentioned before, using different terms for these things can add a great deal of depth—as long as we don’t overdo it. In Anne McCaffrey’s dragon novels she refers to a week as a sevenday. It’s different, but still recognizable to readers. But it’s important to strike a balance between new terms and readability.

5. Keep Your Setting Uncomfortable: Settings can be a great way to bring in or escalate conflict. We want to build a world we love, but we don’t want it to be a world where everything is just right. A true utopian setting—without undercurrents of nastiness—is boring. A perfect setting can suck the life out of your story faster than almost anything. Look for ways to make the world you’re building an obstacle. Give it a difficult climate, or a harsh landscape, or deadly flora and fauna.

Bottom Line:
World building may be something we love, but it still takes work. We have to be willing to go deep and wide to make our settings believable and vibrant. It’s up to us to plant the reader in a place that allows their imagination to roam free while keeping their attention firmly focused on story that’s unfolding.


How do you build your story worlds? What is your favorite unique world that you've read? Let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered to win a copy of Alone (print or e-book)!


Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, military families, or writers. Her passion to help those who are struggling find the strength they need to triumph is reflected in the characters she creates and the insight she shares. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world.

She married the love of her life 35+ years ago and together they’ve raised three sons. Besides writing, Edie can often be found hiking in the out-of-doors with her camera slung across her back and her husband at her side. Connect with Edie further on her website, through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Alone

After her family is killed in the cleansing, Bethany’s purpose in life has changed. No longer will she be allowed to work to save her dying planet. As a slave, endurance is her goal as she marks each day as one moment closer to an eternity spent reunited with those she loved. But when her planet is invaded, everything changes. Now she must decide either to align herself with those from her planet who condemned her faith and killed her family, or with the warriors who have conquered her world. Ultimately her choice will mean life or death for more than just her planet’s ecosystem. She alone holds the key to a powerful secret, and the fate of the entire galaxy depends on her decision.

Available at:





116 comments :

  1. Welcome back to Seekerville, Edie! Such a true post, for whatever genre you write. You have to create that world and make it real, make it make sense and make it memorable.

    Thanks for the reminders!

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    1. Tina, thank you! I LOVE hanging out on Seekerville!!!

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    2. So true, Tina. Even for my contemporary, small town worlds.

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  2. Edie! When you create a world it's like you BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE!

    I love this. Yes we all have to do world building but for me, with cowboys, to say SADDLE doesn't take a lot of explanation. I'm so impressed with what it takes to do what you do. WAY TO GO!

    BTW I used to battle my insomnia by naming each of the original Star Trek Episodes.
    I also rattled off the fifty states in alphabetical order and the fifty capitals in alphabetical order. And the books of the Bible.
    I did this all through one pregnancy.
    I had the presidents mostly memorized before that kid was finally born.
    I still couldn't sleep.

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    1. Mary, I didn't know you were the queen of trivia! I'll have to quiz you on those capitals or presidents next time I see you. :)

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    2. Mary, that's amazing! I don't think I can name the Star Trek episodes in order - LOL!

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    3. I'd fail your trivia quiz, Missy. I can't come close to naming the episodes anymore. I tried the other day and though I remember star trek, as far as an orderly memory of them...it's all gone.
      I can come close on the fifty states but not the capitals anymore. Good but not great. I always trip over the North and South Carolina...that was even hard back then? Now I'm just BAD at it.
      I might be able to zip off the books of the New Testament.
      But for a time, as a youth, I used to always think:
      Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans and countrymen lend me your ears.

      So that's bad.

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    4. Oh, I can do the Greek Alphabet, but at this point, when I can't remember my daughter's phone number, I wish I'd FORGET the Greek Alphabet to free up some space in my brain.

      YOu know how they say a person only uses 10% of their brain? Well, I don't think that's true. I think most of us are going flat out. My brain filled up in the early 1990s and ever since, in order to learn something new I have to forget something.
      I could really use that Greek Alphabet space.

      It does come in handy on crossword puzzles sometimes.

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    5. LOL, Mary! I'm with you on the phone numbers. Only I don't have anything as useful as the Greek alphabet in my brain. :)

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  3. Yay!! Another Spec-Fic author :)

    I love this. I've been building speculative worlds since before I knew it was a thing...drawing maps, inventing languages, creating whole ecosystems even. I remember as a 9- or 10-year-old talking off my grandpa's ear about some species of fish I had spent an afternoon inventing and writing about for a fantasy world. He's lovingly called me "Megan Magpie" ever since... because I would chatter away like that.

    But I digress.

    Aside from the classic Middle Earth and Earthsea and Narnia, my favorite story world so far is Windhaven, the planet in the book by the same name by George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle. The world itself was a character--full of conflict and resistance. The characters struggled against the wind but also used it in creative ways to solve various problems.

    I'd love to be entered for the drawing for Alone!

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    1. Megan, that's such a wonderful story about how you created worlds when you were a child. Truly an author in the making!

      At that age, I was more a reader in the making. I would read the cereal box or Pop Tart box over and over as I ate. Read shampoo bottles or any other containers I came across around the house. It's like I had to be reading all the time. :)

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    2. Megan, George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle are masters at world building! And I would do the same thing—daydream about the worlds I made up. For some of us, it's just in our blood. Blessings, E

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    3. Missy, I did that too! Still do... I don't know why, but it's still so fascinating to try to sound out some of those chemicals in shampoo ingredients. Haha!

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  4. Hi Edie:

    While I still love good SF, I had a SF stage between 15 and 20 years old in which I read close to 1000 SF books. I was even walking across the Caltech campus on my why home from classes at PCC when the students there were agitating to keep Star Trek on the air in the late 1960's. I also worked in mission control at JPL for the Surveyor and Luna Orbiter moon programs.

    I like hard SF in which the laws of physics must prevail. But I did read a few fantasy SF of which I liked Robert Silverberg's "Nightwings" the best.

    The books I can recall off the top of my head with great other worldly settings are:

    Ice, Anna Kavan
    Dune, Frank Herbert
    Slan, A. E. von Vogt
    Silent Planet Trilogy, C. S. Lewis
    The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi), Hermann Hesse
    The History of the Future books, Robert Heinlein.
    Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
    Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov

    Are any of the above also your favorites?

    It seems to me that a great many SF fans are 13 to 20 years old. Do you find that a big part of your readers are YA?

    I wrote a 120,000 word science fantasy in which the whole universe blew up in a cosmic black moment and scattered all the characters in novels into a new dimension with real people and like in the Wizard of Oz all the people spent the rest of the book trying to get back home where they belong. The problem was no one could prove who was real and who was fictional. Many of the settings were from classic books, like hell in Dante, and the themes in those books have counterparts in my book. Authors who put themselves in their novels would meet themselves and argue who was real and who was fictional. Some frustrated characters even argued that they didn't believe in authors. In essence any philosophical problem can be set in this fictional fantasy context.

    I'm on the second draft and it is great fun to write but I don't know if I'll ever finish it.

    Anyway, I think we are probably simpatico. Please place me in the drawing for "Alone".

    Vince

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    1. Vince I didn't remember that you're such a sci-fi fan. What a great memory about Star Trek fans! I can imagine that working for mission control would set off all kinds of story ideas. Maybe that's what spurred you to be a writer in the first place.

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    2. Vince, I definitely think we are simpatico! I thought - when I began writing scifi - that a significant portion of my audience would be YA. I've been surprised to see the number smaller than I imagined. There are a lot of adult scifi fans out there!

      As far as favorites, I love a lot of the books you mentioned. Dune was a huge favorite of mine, as was anything scifi that Asimov wrote. My favorite series of his was the robot deceptive series, though. Another series I loved was Jose Farmer's The River. And I'm a HUGE Anne McCaffrey fan. While I love her Dragon series. I also love her Planet Pirate series. Thanks so much for stopping by! Blessings, E

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    3. Okay, I need to check out more of these authors y'all are mentioning. :)

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    4. I haven't read my sci-fi. I really like some...not sure the word is Paranormal, but I like magical powers. ESP and such.
      Cheryl St. John wrote a book years ago called The Truth About Toby. The woman, who's sister was murdered and nephew killed or kidnapped, is tormented by future visions of her nephew in terrible danger.
      She sees the future. She finds a man who sees things that somewhat mesh with her skillz and together they set out searching for little Toby.
      It's a great story.

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    5. Hi Missy:

      I think the best book to read first as a writer yourself is "Ice" by Anna Kavan. That book is the best 5-sensed book I can remember reading. I read it in July and we had no air conditioning yet I was shivering from the 'cold' the book made me feel.

      It's only 178 pages and Doris Lessing said: "There is nothing else like it." I agree.


      It's now part of a Classic Collection of books:

      "Acclaimed upon its 1967 publication as the best science fiction book of the year, this extraordinary and innovative novel has subsequently been recognized as a major work of literature in its own right."

      You can love this book without even being a SF fan. I also think it has a lot to teach other writers about making readers 'feel' your story.

      Vince

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    6. Vince, thanks for the recommendation!

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  5. My husband is into sports more than scifi, but we have watched some scifi movies over the years. Now that we're living in different states, and I've started packing up the house, I find myself turning to the SciFY channel to keep me company while I pack and organize.

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Edie!

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    1. Jackie, how fun to watch the movies while you work! Good luck with getting packed. I had to do that this past summer, and it's NOT fun. Thankfully, I wasn't doing it alone.

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    2. Jackie, I do love to watch the way scifi is evolving with the science we're developing. The Scifi channel does a good job of providing quality shows! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  6. I have to say how much I loved Edie's book, Alone! When I got a little ways into it, I had to write to her to tell her how much I was enjoying it. So be sure to read it!

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  7. Hi Edie
    You gave an example from Anne McCaffrey's Pern, which is my favorite locale from books I've read. In fact, in grad school I discovered a Pern writing fan club where we'd write short stories about characters we created to live on Pern. Lots of fun.
    Of course I've always been a huge Asimov fan, Orson Scott Card, C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. I was intrigued by Marion's Darkover novels and the world she built there.
    I think I'm a closet speculative fiction writer. I have created a "foreign" alphabet in the past, but not really whole worlds. I think I like staying with earth and going future more than the whole new planet setting.

    I would LOVE to get a copy of ALONE. Must mark that on my list just in case I don't win a copy - so I can be sure to buy it. (I tend to be forgetful and realize way later I didn't get a book a Seeker featured author mentioned. I hate when I do that.)

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    1. Deb, I would have loved being part of that writing fan club! I believe that in some ways, whether we write spec or not, that hyper imagination helps our story telling come to life. Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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    2. Deb, Orson Scott Card is one of my son's favorites. I need to read him!

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    3. EDIE: I'm a big Anne McCaffrey fan and enjoy her Peytabee books second best.

      MISSY: Ender's Game is Orson Scott Card's best known work, I think, but he's got lots of other good books.

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    4. Deb, that's the series my son has told me I need to read.

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  8. I love your method for building a story world, Edie. I don't have a particular process for building my story worlds. Perhaps that's because I usually pick contemporary locales that I've lived in for a long time. Then I research as needed. If there's a restaurant I know of where a scene takes place, I'll get a copy of the menu or search online for pictures to jog my memory. My favorite fictional world is Hogwarts in the Harry Potter Series :-)

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    1. Preslaysa, I think the world building by JK Rowling is beyond amazing! And those are good tips for everyone, start with what you know and build from there! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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    2. Preslaysa, I tend to do the same. Fictional small towns based on real towns (combining my favorite aspects of each). One of the biggest compliments I got was when a readers group thought I was writing about their town in one of my books. And they were right! I had based the downtown square on their town where I had once shopped. :)

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    3. Harry Potter! Book #1 just fell into my hands and I started re-reading it. Then it fell OUT of my hands and I haven't gone back to it again. But one of these days I may try and read the whole series over.
      But reading that beginning, I just kept thinking, "I get why these are so great."

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  9. I haven't read many scifi stories. It wasn't until I did a beta read for Marcy Dyer's book that I realized they existed. I'm hooked! But I love the abnormal animal movies on SyFy, especially Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus and those types of movies. I haven't found any of them in Christian fiction though. Or the abnormal weather ones. Does anybody know of any? Edie, I would love to win a copy of your book! Thanks for the chance. I never really thought about building a story world, but I really need to do that in my stories, so readers know what the town looks like, where they are located, etc. Thanks for another insight into my writing!

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    1. Sally, I don't know of any Christian scifi with that slant. What an intriguing idea *stops to jot down thoughts*. Seriously, maybe you need to explore the idea! LOL! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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    2. Sally, I haven't read many either. I've mostly happened on dystopian story worlds while reading YA fiction.

      One of my favorites was Veronica Roth's Divergent series.

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  10. Edie, this is great, and not just for spec fiction. So far I've done two series, as yet unpubbed, one on the Oregon Trail and one on New York City after the First World War. Obviously there's not much I can do with NYC, it is what it is and I had to do a lot of research, and obviously there's not much I can do with the Oregon Trail. I did create a small settlers' hamlet for the second book in the Oregon Trail series and I had fun with that. My current WIP takes place in a small New Hampshire mountain town which I created, but I still have to be accurate with the towns around it, the topography and the general ambience. I'm having fun with it within the parameters I have to set for myself.
    I would love a copy of the book. You had me at "cleansing," "planet invaded" and "condemned her faith."
    I watch more sci-fi than I read. It's am amazing genre. My husband and I are obsessed with Marvel Comics and the "Avengers/Agents of Shield" continuum. They don't so much create a physical "world" as a consistent world view and series of events going back to the 1940s. But everything fits, whether it's in one of the blockbuster movies or the weekly "Shield" TV series.
    We have been Snowed In since yesterday at noon. I don't mind as long as I have provisions and don't have to go anywhere. I will be back later.
    Best,
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Kathy, I love being snowed in if I'm prepared. Of course, we don't have that often in Georgia! So it's a nice, exciting event around here. :) Hope you stay warm!

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    2. Kathy, your book sound wonderful! I also love the Marvel universe...some movies more than others. But it's a great world they've created! Our winter here in SC seems to have passed us by. We're all fighting spring allergy issues. I love winter and hate being short-changed! thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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  11. Edie, I've thought about it, but I have no idea where to go with it. I love the concept of how the abnormal animals came to be, whether genetic engineering or whatnot, but beyond that, I have no idea. Maybe I will work on a concept for Speedbo in March and see where it goes? My first question is, do I spend the first part of the first chapter introducing the main characters or does the abnormal animal take center stage so the readers know what's in store? So many possibilites!

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    1. Sally, I love that you're considering this for Speedbo! For those who haven't heard about that yet, it's our Book-in-a-Month challenge that we sponsor in March. :)

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    2. Haha! I might need help with brainstorming and getting the story set up! I'd have no idea what to do. Maybe a weekend of abnormal animals on SyFy is required!

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    3. Sally, for my first draft, I write what I fall in love with. If it's the animals that grab you, start there. After you have it all written down, that's when you can begin to play with the format and when to introduce what. (and I always think a weekend of abnormal animals on SyFy is required!) I think this is a great idea for Speedbo! Blessings, E

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  12. I have never been a reader of science fiction but the sci-fi lovers in our library requested the Dune books by Frank Herbert and the books by Anne McCaughey were also very popular.
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Connie, scifi fans are incredibly loyal! Blessings, E

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  13. Welcome, Edie! I'm a Star Trek fan, too! I watched every TV series incarnation and have seen all the movies, but honestly--naming the episodes like MARY??? Um, no.

    And this feels weird to admit, but I love watching sci-fi movies and TV shows but have never really been a sci-fi reader.

    On the other hand, I'll read Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books again and again and again. Or watch the movies repeatedly. I love C.S. Lewis's stories, too.

    I second what TINA said in her comment--building believable story worlds is essential for any genre. Thanks for this enlightening post!

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    1. Myra, I always love to connect with another Trekkie! Some scifi is so technical it can be off putting to those just reading for light fun. And yes, if we don't build the world for the reader - in any genre - we've failed miserably. I feel like a presumptuous upstart talking about that here with all the Seekerville experts. Thanks again for letting me share! Blessings, E

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    2. Edie, you did a beautiful job on your story world in Alone! I'm so glad you shared.

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  14. Edie, I just saw your beautiful website update! Very nice!

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    1. Missy, thank you! I'm really excited about it - and the fact that I got to keep my Blogger site. My website designer did an amazing job of recoding Blogger!

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  15. Hello Edie and thank you for visiting Seekerville today with such an interesting post. I love sci fi myself and your book sounds really intriguing. And yes, sci fi folk esp are into detail about that world you create. One of my best friends is an avid sci fi reader chuckle.
    I love to create worlds too, but I base the worlds on places I've been. I will locate in the Southwest for example, but I make up the town so I'm not getting called on errors.
    Thanks again for sharing with us. Have a fun day today.

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    1. Sandra, I do that as well since I don't want to have to get everything exactly right. My first book was set in Gatlinburg, TN. But after that I have created towns.

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  16. Edie, I am always impressed with writers of spec fiction. I usually think I have a fair imagination...until I talk to someone who writes sci-fi. You are amazing! Thank you for the tips.

    I'm raising my hand as a Trekkie as well, but it has to be Next Generation. No Kirk. Picard all the way! :-)

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    1. I probably shouldn't admit that I rarely ever watched Star Trek. :)

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    2. I pick Picard over Kirk too! But I also love the new Star Trek movies. I love the way they reset the Star Trek universe in a way that works!

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  17. You know, I meant to say this earlier. I loved the piece of advice to keep your setting uncomfortable. We can use that with any setting! It's so important, and something I tend not to think of. Thanks, Edie!

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    1. Missy, I learned that bit of writing brilliance from DiAnn Mills! I can't take credit for a bit of it.

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  18. I love world building! I'm a speculative fiction writer too, though my main genre is fantasy so the worlds I build are a little different from the ones you build. I like dark woods, Gothic manors, and small villages. Giant palaces, or ancient fortresses, or perhaps a crumbling ruin. Oh, and let's not forget the dragons, wraiths, elves, and other creatures (some which I just make up) who must inhabit my lands. And there absolutely must be magic, because you can never get enough magic. You're inspired by Star Trek, I'm inspired by the Lord of the Rings.

    Another thing I like about the world-building, is the making up of the politics. Which ambassador from which country is most likely to feel awkward in the presence of an ambassador from so-and-so country? Which countries are at war with each other? Which ones are at the verge of war? Which courtiers are more likely to try to assassinate the kings of which countries?

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    1. Nicky, I'm a big fantasy fan, too! And what a great addition - the political aspect! Thank you so much for sharing, Blessings, E

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    2. Nicky, it's been a while since I've read a fantasy, but your post is a nice reminder how much I enjoyed them in the past. Thanks for mentioning what you like to write!

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  19. Love this post, Edie! My hat's off to you on world building. Sounds as if you know your stuff! But all writers create a world for their characters. I write suspense. The world I build has to be dark. I hold back on the sunshine and blue skies until the epilogue.

    Of course, the world I need to create is never as detailed as your speculative world. Congrats on your success! I'm in awe!!!

    You mentioned military families. Are you a military wife? If so, which branch? God bless all military families who love and support our men and women in uniform!

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    1. Debby, you're right, we're all world builders!

      As far as the military connection, our oldest son was in Marine Corps. He went straight from high school to boot camp to Iraq where he served two tours. Three of my nonfiction books are for military families and that's how I began to blog for Guideposts targeting military families. It was hard enough having a son at war. I truly can't imagine how the wives (and husbands) cope.

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    2. Edie, I know what you mean about having a son in a war zone. My son had four deployments. The first time was the hardest for me. I'd go to church and cry as I pleaded with God to protect my child! My husband and I were so blessed that God honored our prayers during each deployment, and we continue to pray for our military and for their families.

      Are you still blogging with Guideposts? If so, I'd love to know the URL.

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    3. Oh Debby, we're kindred spirits - military moms! Yes, I'm still blogging at Guideposts, here's the direct link: https://www.guideposts.org/users/egmelson

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    4. Edie and Debby, bless you and your families for serving!

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  20. I'm not a Trekkie, nor am I an avid Star Wars buff - I just like both very much - just not obsessive. My seven year old, though, has discovered Star Wars and loves it - to the point that he told mommy and daddy he would like to change his name to Luke Skywalker.

    I may have to introduce him to Star Trek at some point. He might like it too... hmmm...

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    1. Deb, I don't know that I'd lump all Trekkie's into the obsessed category. LOL! I bet your son well enjoy Star Trek, though!

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  21. Hi Edie:

    About 'world view' and 'world creation,' I see this as a major bar to entry for a new author. I know I felt a 'new world, new physics,' fatigue after I'd read a few hundred SF books.

    A new world that is substantially different presents a mega 'backstory' problem. Sometimes a lot has to be invested to entertain the new world the author has created and this overhead has to be built without even not knowing if you are going to like the story in the first place. For this reason I think awards are extremely important in the SF genre. (You really want to know that the story is worth learning the 'new world' overhead.)

    Also, when magic is allowed, conflict is hard to make real. In Harry Potter any dangerous situation can be solved with magic. There is no situation, no matter how dangerous, Harry Potter can not get out of when magic is available. The question to me in these dangerous situations is not will the character survive ala the story but whether the author is ready to kill off a character (because the character can always get out of it unless the author does not want him to.)

    A lot of people think SF is easy. I would think it is the hardest to break into. I also think the new writer has to have read more of the existing genre to avoid re-writing other people's books. (In romance there can be a million 'marriage of convenience' theme stories, but in SF, you better not rewrite "Childhood's End" unless you're the best in your field.)

    Would you recommend aspiring writers write SF first? I have tremendous admiration for the authors who can be successful in this genre.

    Vince

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    1. Vince, I recommend writing what you're passionate about. Making up all the stuff to populate my scifi world is something I love. I have other friends who feel the same about their fantasy worlds. Yes, there's work involved and at times it's tough. But with the passion comes the ability to stick with it. Like readers in any other genre, scifi fans can pick out those who don't truly love it! Blessings, E

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    2. You know, Vince, I get what you're saying. But it might be easier to start off with sci-fi or fantasy since the writer can sort of create the rules for herself. She may feel less restricted and can just let the writing flow. At least on the first draft. :)

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    3. Hi Missy: I can agree 100% that it might be easier to finish a first draft in SF but my concern was getting a SF book published.

      "Fans won't buy your story idea because gravity would have crushed your whole world into a black hole."

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    4. Vince, yeah, traditional publication is a whole different story. :)

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  22. Another sci-fi fav. I used to be addicted to Highlander.
    Duncan McCleod, the immortal.
    Very cool show.

    And I watched ... I think it was called Forever Night. Or Forever Knight? Again, years ago. Hero was a vampire who worked as a cop...night shift only. Very cool show, a good-guy vampire, by turns tormented and cool. Vampire friends and human friends and never the twain shall meet.

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    1. Mary, I'd forgotten about Forever Night! I LOVED that show! I wonder if we can stream it online somewhere. Thanks for the reminder!

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    2. Yes, Highlander! I used to love that show, too, Mary!

      And Stargate SG-1 and the spinoffs. That was another favorite of mine.

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    3. Well, I feel like I've missed out. Must look to see if I can stream Highlander somewhere!

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  23. But these shows I'm talking about are in the real world, NOT a made up 'created world'. So that's easier. Yes you have to make the rules and follow them, but you don't have to invent PLANTS and ANIMALS. That is so complex. Lord of the Rings stuff.
    I find that so impressive.

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    1. Mary, I don't think it's easier or harder, it's just what we love. I think writing in the "real world" is incredibly difficult because I'm always wanting to veer too off the path and run into realism issues. LOL!

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    2. LOL, Edie. I stress over careers in my contemporary small-town worlds. I can make up a town, but I have to get my character's jobs right! :)

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  24. Edie! How fun to see you here!

    What a great post for helping us best create and describe our own settings. I can only imagine the hours you've spent creating worlds for your stories. :) Mine are set in real world, city-type settings. One thing I need to be more intentional about is creating aspects that are challenging to my characters. I love that idea!

    I think one of my favorite settings is PEI from Anne of Green Gables. The descriptions LM Montgomery wrote bought the scenes alive in my mind. Lake of Shining Waters? White Way of Delight? Loved those. :)

    I also love Narnia. CS Lewis was phenomenal about mixing real world and fantasy world in his settings.

    Great post!

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    1. Jeanne, I'm with you. I LOVE Anne of Green Gables! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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    2. Jeanne, I have always wanted to go to PEI ever since reading the books and watching the shows!

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  25. My grandkids...ages 6, 8 and 12...love the Star Wars movies. They have universal appeal.

    If only we could all write stories that would impact so many!

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  26. EDIE, welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for excellent post. I write historical romance so must make the small town settings from the past feel real and as you say, uncomfortable for the inhabitants. Conflict is story and the setting is where that story finds life. I love the warmth of small town settings, but they also can bring problems when most everyone knows--or wants to know--everyone else's business. :-)

    I was a member of a book club that read all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, the reason I read Dune.

    Congratulations on your novel Alone! You've created a story with high stakes, the best kind!

    Janet

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    1. Janet, thank you so much! I agree, world building isn't genre specific! Thanks for letting me hang out today, Blessings, E

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    2. Janet, yes, Edie definitely had high stakes in her story. I loved it!

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  27. I love sci fi and fantasy, and if there is ever time, I'm going to play in that realm because it's so fun, Edie! It's like the ultimate fun, but it is scaled carefully to be believable.... I've judged lots of SCI FI in contests, and my biggest problem is people who go overboard with weird names, places, things, and create a world so complex that it makes little sense...

    I mean if Tolkien can do it, I think we can too!

    I'm so glad you're here today, chatting about this! Thank you so much for guesting with us today!

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    1. Ruth, you are so right! And with the attention span of today's audience (me included) we've got to strike that balance between creation and readability. Thanks for letting me join you all today! Blessings, E

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    2. Good point, Ruthy. There's a balance.

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  28. Such an interesting post - thank you, EDIE! I don't write sci-fi or create other worlds, but I do spend a lot of time on my towns/cities as I'm writing. In fact, instead of counting sheep when I can't sleep, I often mentally walk along the main street of my small town, going in and out of businesses, seeing who's visiting and what they're doing. This actually sounds a little crazy, but it works for me, LOL. Thanks again.

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    1. Laura, I don't think that sounds crazy at all! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

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    2. Laura, I love that idea!! It can also help visualize it so you can describe it better.

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  29. EDIE, thank you for this interesting post! I've not read much spec-fiction. I'm amazed at the authors creativity on worlds and creatures.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Caryl, thanks for taking time to comment! Blessings, E

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  30. In the little bit of world building I've done, I guess I've considered many of the things you describe in your post above. My first novel manuscript was a fantasy. I had different terms for the compass points. It wasn't Earth so why north, south, east, west? Silly maybe, but that's one thing I did. I also tied the topography to the geology in a way that worked into the plot. I've also started a Sci-fi and a dystopian that involve some world building.

    On a different note, someone mentioned above that they thought they were creative until they considered the depth of imagination it would take to build these kinds of worlds. But I sometimes think it's harder to work within the real world because you don't have as much flexibility. I think extra creativity comes when we start shaking off what's expected and playing around with the new possibilities of “what's real.” That's not to say that keeping track of story world rules and making sure they're consistent is easy, but…both take creativity.

    As for worlds I've enjoyed from other stories, I'm having a hard time separating story and world in my memory. I can remember fantasy/sci-fi stories I've enjoyed, but I can't always recall if the story world in particular stood out as being better than other books in the same genre. One story that comes to mind is Dune, but it's been a while. David Weber's Safehold series is an amazing bit of world building with a huge cast of characters. It's sort of the sci-fi version of the Reformation. (Note: It's a good series, but there is some cursing, so read at your own discretion.)

    So…I couldn't help but notice the Trekkie references. I'm not a Trekkie, but my husband made me a fan of Babylon 5. Did Star Trek have a strong story arc? Babylon 5's, in my opinion, is pretty amazingly well thought out, but I'm not as familiar with Star Trek.

    Well, I've enjoyed every Christian spec fic I've read, Edie, so I'll have to add yours to the list. Sounds intriguing. You've planted a great dilemma right there in the blurb! Thanks for visiting Seekerville :-)

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    1. Lara, these are all excellent points! Thanks so much for stopping by, Blessings, E

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    2. Lara, I've realized today that I really do need to read Dune. It's been mentioned so many times!

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    3. Dune was a husband recommendation (and a good one!) He didn't care as much for the continuation of the series as for the first book, but I hope you enjoy it if you get the chance to read it. (And...the movie is just weird.)

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  31. Hi Edie! So appreciated this sentence: "A perfect setting can suck the life out of your story faster than almost anything." The setting has been almost an enemy in some stories I've read -- and there's no way for the heroine/hero to get out of the setting. Talk about conflict :-) That's especially true in a series I read that takes place in Wyoming. The weather -- and mountains and rivers -- in those stories can be an awesome adversary.

    Thanks for the info!

    Nancy C

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    1. Nancy, thank you for dropping in and taking time to comment! Blessings, E

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    2. That's a good point, Nancy. I love when I'm reading a story and the protagonist just can't get a break. It keeps me reading! :)

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  32. I'm sorry to be away so long today!! Will try to catch up now.

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  33. Oh Edie, I really enjoyed your post and your perspective. One of my favorite worlds is London Below in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It absolutely captivated me.

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    1. Kelly, thanks for the recommendation!

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    2. Kelly, I love Neverwhere! Thanks for bringing that up - Blessings, E

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  34. EDIE!! Welcome back to Seekerville, my friend -- SO FUN to have you here today! And would you believe I started this comment this morning and just now realized I never published it???

    First of all, let me say that I put speculative fiction authors right up there with mystery and suspense authors and maybe even a notch or two higher because writing a story that will keep a reader's attention is one thing. But writing a story that will keep a reader's attention AND challenge their minds with a mystery requires a lot more from the writer, in my opinion. Just as writing a historical requires more from the writer than a contemporary, suspense and/or spec. fiction adds so many additional layers of skill, that it boggles my mind (easily done, mind you, but still ... ) ;)

    YOU SAID: "As a speculative author, I don’t have to worry about real-life inhabitants fussing because I got the setting wrong."

    Well, I can certainly relate to this because as a primarily historical author, readers point out to me all the time how I've blown it on historical facts, so I hear you. But one thing it's taught me for sure is to always double-check my research. :)

    YOU ASKED: "How do you build your story worlds? What is your favorite unique world that you've read?"

    I like to build my historical story worlds around fun historical facts if I can, although with my story worlds, it's more research than the totally creative imagination of speculative authors who create worlds out of thin air!

    I haven't really read many "unique world" stories other than Twilight, but my favorite unique world story that I've seen in film is is The Wizard of Oz, so that should tell you how old I am!

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie, I got sucked right into the Twilight world in the first book.

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    2. Julie, I loved the world created in Twilight! And it just doesn't get any better than The Wizard of Oz! thanks for having me back! Blessings, E

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  35. Well done Edie!

    I must now read your book :) Please enter me in the drawing for a print copy.

    As a teenager I read a lot of science fiction. Especially loved CJ Cherryh and her many diverse worlds.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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