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?
I spoke a couple of weeks ago about a method I use to take the sting out of query letter rejection (here). Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read a few books. While I await the release of Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole and Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, I’ve selected a few free ereads.
Photo by Jessie Harrell
For a while now, I’ve been reading like a writer. Sometimes it takes the joy out of a book, other times it adds a whole new level of appreciation. This month, I read one book in each category. Overall, I enjoyed both of them. However, one author has me willing to pay money for the next book, the other not so much.
Here’s what did/didn’t work for me:
The Book I’ll Pass On
I have to admit, I loved the premise of this story. It was well into the genres I like. The author had a strong grasp on the paranormal creatures in the story and did a wonderful job of staying consistent with the supernatural powers in the world created.
There was tension and conflict in the story, but some of it felt orchestrated and much was resolved through hap and circumstance.
This one was a YA book and the author nailed the age and attitude, but it was a little over board.
The author used regional slang and clichés to the detriment of dialogue.
Plus, and I might be guilty on this one, the author had multiple scenes of every day things with no underlying tension. For example, the MC was getting ready for a date and that was it. No underlying emotional or mental tension.
The Book That Hooked Me
LOVED the heroine and the hero.
The voice hooked me right away. The MC is funny and relatable and freely admits her faults without out sound too self-deprecating.
The world building is wonderful and information about the setting is doled out in small digestible doses.
The supporting cast a.k.a. minor characters are intriguing in their own way.
I cared about what happened to the MC if she failed to reach her goal.
Have you ever picked up a free book which hooked you so well you purchased more from the author (if it’s paranormal romance, I want titles and names, please and thank you 🙂 )? What drew you in? Have you picked up one that turned you off, and if so say why (out of respect, please KEEP TITLES and NAMES ANONYMOUS)?
[Update: Look what I found. Free Kindle books here.]