Make It Real


Rich world building is one of the things I enjoy most about reading paranormal books, and I believe this applies to all genres, as well as literary fiction. I love when authors create a place so well I’m tempted to add it to my Place To Visit list, but then remember it’s only a fantasy world. I mentioned before that I read like a writer (here), and I’ve been paying extra attention to how authors create worlds.

Here are a few things which draw me in:

Photo by Denise (dwyant160 on Flickr)

  • Consistency. Once the author establishes rules for how the world works, they serve as guidelines for what to expect later. For example, in HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, she established the rules that govern Panem and the twelve outlying districts. Readers know each district has to send a boy and girl to participate in the Games and they know the dismal outcome. While reading the book, I kept thinking, “There’s no way…” yet Collins stayed true to her world’s rules and beloved characters died.
  • Believable paranormal elements. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but hear me out. Even though paranormal writers dally in the supernatural, there are still certain things readers of the genre expect. Ghosts are incorporeal. Zombies can’t talk. Vampires burn in sunlight. Valkyrie can’t resist shiny objects. Whenever writers deviate from these standards, they’re tasked with making it believable (and consistent). It can be done. I’m sure we can all think of books where paranormal creatures break traditional expectations.
  • Rich setting/characters. One of my favorite things about Kresley Cole (*admits author crush*) is how real her settings are. She incorporates all five senses (sound, taste, smell, touch, and sight) into her scenes in a well-balanced way, so the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed with description. Cole also has strong heroines and heroes whose personalities stay consistent (decisive, not wishy washy). Her characters only undergo personality change after major trials and tribulations.
  • Normal Things. This goes hand in hand with setting. These are the things we all experience or can relate to which make a setting real. It’s the sound of a crumpled brown paper towel, the hum of a vending machine, the chill of a hospital, the sight of sunlight filtering through window blinds, the delicious taste of chocolate, etc.  These everyday things help readers feel closer to a story.

What additional elements do you include in your world building? What draws you to the type of books you like to read?

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3 comments on “Make It Real

  1. Vicki Orians says:

    Consistency is definitely a big deal in creating a world, especially if it’s a fantasy world. Like you said, there are certain rules that govern all – like ghosts being incorporeal. And as you attested with THE HUNGER GAMES, it’s important to have a set of rules outlined before you start writing. I goofed on that with my WiP, and my CP pointed out how confused my readers would be. And I definitely don’t want that! Needless to say, I adjusted things so that my readers would believe what happened in my story. That’s the important thing.

  2. Great post! I’m pretty keen on watching for plausibility errors, but I still need to work on including more sensory stuff. There are so many layers to writing a book, it can get overwhelming at times!
    (And I’m gonna have to check out Kresley Cole.) 😉

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