Real Or Fake?

Where story settings are concerned writers have options: real, fake, or both. I’ve used them all. My short story ZOMBIE KIBOSH CREW is strategically based in St. Louis, MO. I used Google Maps to help me get a satellite view and when I zoomed in close enough, it gave a virtual point of view. It’s awesome. Give it a try. My WiP BLINK is based on Golden, CO with a major fictional spin to it. The setting in my debut novel EDGE OF TRUTH is set in 2248. I used a real calendar (cause I’m a geek like that), but created the setting through world building.

Of the three, I find faking it a.k.a. world building the most difficult, yet fun and rewarding.

How about you? Please take my poll and/or leave a comment to let me know what kind of settings you like to use and why.

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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?

Why Can’t I Quit Her?

I have a stack of books waiting for me to pick them up and crack them open. I have sample pages of eBooks on my Kindle waiting for me to click them. Yet, I keep finding myself searching for new Kresley Cole Immortal After Dark books. This series centers around a variety of Lore creatures from Valkyrie to Lykae to Shifters to Vampires to many others who secretly live among humankind. I love all things paranormal, but more than that draws me into her books.

As a writer, my curiosity about how Cole hooks readers led me to this list:

  • Rich and vivid world building. I have no problem imagining the settings Cole creates. She doesn’t dedicate page after page to description, rather she brings the environment alive through her characters’ POV and shows them interacting with their surroundings.
  • Strong, well thought out characters. I am amazed by how seamlessly she weaves her characters into the different books in this series. Each one focuses on a hero and heroine, their individual goals (which conflict with one another), the obstacles in their way, and how they intend to reach their goals. She brings in characters from other books in the series who inadvertently and sometimes advertently (Nix, I’m talking about you) affect one another. Each character has their own sense of humor and made me laugh at the most unexpected moments.
  • Deep paranormal immersion. This world that Cole has created is ripe with powerful paranormal beings who have weaknesses and scars. There’s the Valkyrie,who are fierce, beautiful women with an affinity for movies, video games, and swiping clothes from one another. The Lykae, Vampires, Demons, Beserkers, and Fey are powerful, wicked, and scarred.
  • Thrilling and intricate plots. So far, every Immortal After Dark book I’ve read mentions the Accession, a kind of mystical checks-and-balances system for an ever-growing population of immortals. Readers get to see this thing unfold from multiple points of view. I’m impressed with how tightly the story lines are weaved from one book to another. The adventures take readers around the world.
  • Last, but not least, the romance. Cole knows how to create mental, physical, and sexual tension between characters in a believable way. Her passionate, virile male characters are lethally protective over their fated mates, even though these women can hold their own.

What draws you into a book series? Who can’t you quit?

[Note: Cole writes adult paranormal romance.]