Monthly Archives: June 2016

World Building and the Info-dump

Readers love a rich universe that feels expansive. Creators that have been successful with that task have a nearly endless supply of material available to them to craft more stories. There is always something new to explore in a world that is as complex and interesting as our own. This is why fan fiction, movies, and other creations are so rampant – particularly for excellent fictional worlds; the backdrop of the story is deep enough that it always feels that there is another tale just around the corner, waiting to be told.

There is a fine edge to walk when developing such extensive frameworks, particularly in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Balancing enough information for the reader to understand and be interested in a new world – with different social customs, cultures, technology, even physics – against overloading them with facts is tricky. Too much and the reader is left lost and confused, having to reread paragraphs or whole pages, constantly refer to tables, charts, or maps, or *gasp* put down a book all together. Too little and the world doesn’t feel real enough. Belief can be suspended for almost anything. A ring that gives ultimate power, and invisibility? I’m with you. Swords made out of light? No problem. A planet supported on the back of a huge space turtle? I’d buy that. However, every reader needs a reason that these things should make sense. Rules for why and how magic works. Probability for the unknown in the vast reaches of space (and a bit of humor). Without framework and a semi-logical constraint system, even the most interesting world can fall apart. Poorly executed world-building ruins the most important task of a fantasy or sci-fi work: transporting the reader to another place.

Barghest is set in our world, in the future. There is no magic, but there is a significant amount of technology that does not exist today. Some of that, like the  armor suits Maker and her fellow soldiers use and gene therapy, is based on actual research being done today. Other things are a bit more far-fetched, like faster than light travel. Those concepts are based loosely on some theories about how physics might work beyond our understanding of it, and the vast amount of unknowns in the universe. I also rely heavily on fifty years of of sci-fi readers that have suspended disbelief for “warp speed”. Beyond the technology of Barghest are the cultural and social constructs, the politics of humanity more than a century in the future. I have attempted to insert that information gently into the story, using conversations between characters and inner monologues that are hopefully not too distracting. Even with those info-dumps, I still felt like I needed to give the reader a better sense of the world. I added in the headers for each chapter, either a “this day in history” or a dictionary entry that are designed to set the stage for Barghest.

The latest chapter for Barghest, Part II: Depredation has posted, and it features a flash back for Maker which I used to describe the social structure that I imagined evolved along with alien incursions and designer genes. Please read Chapter 2: Character Building and let me know what you think. Too much? Too little? Or just enough?

Less Feels, More Punchy-Punchy

Barghest, Part II has begun. There has been some re-organization on the site to make room for it, but you can find Chapter 1: Portent here. It made me think about how I started writing longer, novel-esque works.

My first beta reader was my husband. The man is a good friend, an intelligent person, and an avid reader. He has suffered through more more opening chapters and half-finished novels than any one person should have to – mostly without complaint. After I had finished my first book, North Sea Dawn, I asked him what he thought of it and his response was that overall it was good, but he would have liked less internal emotional examinations and more fight scenes. I’m paraphrasing here, but apparently historical romance is not his thing.

As I started working on a new project, something that I felt excited and passionate about, I did consider my audience. All of the self-help for writers articles say you should consider your audience. (I think they meant people that buy the books, but I work with what I have.) Barghest definitely has more fight scenes. Fight scenes with aliens. Fight scenes versus nature. Fight scenes in zero gravity. Fight scenes with genetically modified child soldiers. And now, fight scenes with space ships.

You are welcome.

Non-fiction vs. Fiction

My first non-fiction article was published this month at Her View From Home. The entire thing was less than 900 words – a page and a half in total – and it only took an hour to write and rough edit. When it was done, even when I sent it in to the editor, I was still half-certain I hated it. Not because it was poorly written or full of grammatical flaws (although I am sure there were elements of that as well), but because it was real.  I have never before shared a real experience of my own, and it left me feeling exposed. Not only is the article about my own life, but it has my name on it. No pseudonym, no persona of ‘author of books’. Just me. That is truly frightening.

After my June started out with the terror of reality, it was a bit of a relief to return to the terror of genetically engineered super soldiers and the sudden, lung-squeezing fear of a wet beak grinding in anticipation. Let’s all look forward to ending the month with Maker and Malak getting back to what they do best – making greasy smears out of space lobsters.

Until next week.