Tag Archives: world-building

Book recommendations wanted

I’m in the mood for some fantasy. Doesn’t happen often, but sometimes that’s what I really want to read. But it’s hard to find something I like because a) there has to be some romance, and b) I’m not super-familiar with the genre. So I thought I’d tell you guys about some books I’ve loved that are still sitting on my favs shelf and maybe those of you who are more familiar could give me some ideas.

I don’t even know that I want to contemplate how long ago it was that I read “The Keltiad” series. In the books, a group of people from Earth (Ireland), were able to travel through space at an insanely early point in history (by magical religious science, I guess). On the planet of Keltia and it’s surrounding planetary bodies, they established a whole new Keltic civilization. Now, well into the future, a small group of Earth explorers happens upon this hidden civilization out in space. To make things interesting, they show up at the beginnings of what will become a big political drama and war.

While there was a bit of romance that pulled me through the books, the strength of these is the amazingly detailed world-building and the development of the main character, Aeron, who is the slightly reluctant though duty-bound Queen of Keltia.

Rhapsody, Prophecy, and Destiny also blew my mind. And the romance in this one was very important in the story. Well, at least to me it was. I could not stop reading these books until the relationship was resolved. And it was AMAZING!!! Basically, character from different times and places who never should have met–do, which changes both their lives. By the time they struggle back to being in the same time and place, they’re so completely altered that they don’t even recognize each other. And then you have to go on reading it, knowing it, and waiting for the moment when they figure it out and all is revealed. ARG! It was awesome reading.

Aside from that, the imagination in this thing! Incredible world-building and description, totally interesting characters, some of whom were incredibly alien and yet very, very real.

The Witches of Eileanan series could be a little uneven in that it didn’t always follow the same characters. It started with one girl, then broke from her to mainly follow another, and then at once point diverged from both of them and a whole book followed a more minor character. But that’s okay, because it was kind of awesome.

If I remember right, witchcraft was outlawed and being a witch was a crime, which was unfortunate because having magic wasn’t a choice. So there was a whole not so secret secret police running around hunting witches, a resistance, all that good stuff. Lots of remarkably heroic yet flawed characters facing all kind of adversity such that I was practically bouncing up and down rooting for them and couldn’t stop reading these, one after another.

One girl definitely had a better love life than the other, and those relationships didn’t drive the plot. But the characters were incredible. The world-building (see a theme in what I like?)! The surprises in the world were a constant source of delight for me. Maybe that’s partly because I don’t read a lot in this genre. Maybe I’m easily impressed. But I thought these books were brilliant.

Wizard’s First Rule is the first of the Sword of Truth series on which the television series Legend of the Seeker is, somewhat loosely IMO, based. Character development here was amazing (I know, I am repetitive and have a limited vocabulary). Richard Cypher will always be one of my favorite characters. In fact, I couldn’t finish the third book or go farther in the series because I just plain couldn’t stand all the torture of poor Richard! Terry Goodkind really knows how to torment a protag.

The romance in this is awesome if you’re totally drawn in by the seemingly impossible relationship. Which I am. And this being fantasy, of course I couldn’t tell how or even if it could possibly work out for these guys. Definitely part of what kept me turning pages. But it’s also that Richard, just a simple, good guy who was just minding his business with no idea he had a destiny, got on board with the world-saving and always chose the right thing even though it was pretty much always the really had thing.

AGAIN, featuring stupendous world-building in addition to the awesome characterization. Maybe it’s the fantastic worlds that make these books stand out in my memory when so many romantic suspense novels just run together in my head.

Okay, so those are some examples of things I’ve loved that I’m in the mood for more of. Anyone have any ideas for me?


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Blueprint Series Part 4: Story World

Welcome back. And, if you’ve just arrived, I’m doing this series explaining the story blueprint I use. I’ve got a link to the file on my download page–see tab above. Click here for Part 1.

So today we’re on Story World, which is pretty straightforward in terms of understanding my questions. Which are:

Step 4: Story World

  1. In what time period is your story? (Current day, historic period, future, alternate reality…) Jot down some things you know about the time period in which your story takes place and how that will affect the story and/or characters.
  2. Where does your story take place? (Town, country, planet, school…) Jot down a general idea of the world in which your story takes place and how the world itself will affect the story and its characters.
  3. Are there background or details about your story world that will impact the story and/or characters? (Politics, regional history, layout, flora/fauna, ethnic influences, socio-economic differences, wars, tech…)
  4. What season is it? Are there any weather events, climate, or holiday details that will impact the story?
  5. Location, location, location. Jot down some of the locations you can already envision in your story, and any details you see as important.

You can spend as much time on Story World as you want. You can get incredibly detailed here. The thing of it is that the more brilliant stuff you come up with, the more you’ll be tempted to put it into your story, whether it actually enhances it or not. So BEWARE.

That said, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a novel. In addition to your plot, your subplot, your characters, their relevant backstories, their interpersonal relationships, you’ve also got to be a director, dialectician (possibly not a word), a costume designer, and, yes, a set designer. So don’t forget that we do need to have a sense of place in your story. Sometimes working through your locations outside of the story will keep those details at your fingertips to be inserted when you need them, rather than the info-dump that often occurs when you’re designing on the fly.

Let me know when you’re done describing the curtains so I can get back to reading your story…

Yeah, just don’t go there.

For some of you, story world is everything. And I’ll confess that I LOVE a good world-building. I love the endless surprises that can happen in a fantasy world. While I choose books for character development and relationships, the books I remember are most often the ones that also delivered a richness of place.

Author Larry Brooks has a nice article about thinking of the concept of “Arena”. It’s about how thinking of telling a story from a specific time and place, one that has critical impact on its events and characters, can really elevate a story to greatness. (This is an awesome blog for writers. Subscribe while you’re there.)

And that’s kind of what I want you to take away from this part of the series. When you’re developing these places for your story world, really give thought to how those details may be relevant to the story you plan to tell. Sometimes details are just there for the sake of detail, and that’s ok. Often that’s your subconscious at work, and those details are picked up and made relevant later on–in the story or in the series. Finding the balance between a rich sense of place and boring the crap out of your reader with your inner Martha is something to strive for. Part of that balance can happen at this stage by finding ways to connect story and place at this stage.

If you need more help with world-building, you might check out that section of Lynn Viehl’s Novel Notebook.

In our next episode, we’re going sketch out your Main Plot Points. I’ll be doing an overview on some story structure basics to get through it.

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