Monday, June 11, 2012

Jillian Stone Graces the Deck of Romance Writer's Revenge!

A funny story. So I wrote this review about an awesome book of the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard--and Jillian Stone, the author of the awesome book, saw it! Her comment alone was enough to make me dance around in excitement, but then she also agreed to write a blog for us, telling some of her super-dooper secrets of writing such a fantastic book--though, that might be because I kinda stalked her a little. Whatever. She's here! She is here today to present us a blog about world-building and its importance to great writing! Please help me welcome her to the ship--Jillian Stone!

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The Daring and Dangerous World of The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard.

Thanks to MsHellion (Fran) for inviting me to Romance Writer’s Revenge. Fran suggested that I might blog a bit about The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series, and share a few world building techniques and supporting character writing tips. You never know––what works for me might also be helpful for you, as well!

It all begins, with a little backstory.

My debut novel, An Affair With Mr. Kennedy, is the first in The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. As you can tell from the title, I decided to focus more on working class characters. But what was it about these “gentlemen” that initially intrigued me? And why did I choose to write about the emerging middle class and not lords and ladies?

First off, I knew I wanted to write historical romance, but Regency seemed like a crowded field (filled with very talented writers). And I didn't want to write about dukes and earls sitting around in gentlemen's clubs making wagers. I began to notice that a few romance authors were writing in the Victorian period. I was particularly drawn to the Amanda Quick novels, which were historical romance but incorporated mystery, suspense and occult elements. Then I got to thinking about Scotland Yard detectives. It seemed to me that Yard men were always portrayed as bumbling inspectors, five moves behind Sherlock Holmes.

Was there an opportunity here? From my days as an advertising creative I have learned to  look for the exceptional opportunity, something that has been overlooked or goes against more conventional thinking or traditions. So I thought, what if there was an elite group of detectives?


Research. Research. Research.

So, I began to do some research and found out that there was a division of Scotland Yard created in the 1882 called Special Branch to thwart anarchist attacks on London. (A bit like our Homeland Security.) I dug deeper and soon became fascinated with late nineteenth century London. Worker’s rights and emerging trade union strikes, women’s suffrage, the industrial revolution were all going full tilt, and I thought what an exciting time to set a series of historical romantic suspense novels. I added a dash (as in dashing) of James Bond Steampunk and that was the start of The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard.

There’s no getting around it, if you are going to write historical fiction, you really have to enjoy research. A reasonably good working knowledge of the period helps bring your plot and characters to life. By the way, this is true of any time period, even contemporary. Think about all the things your characters can interact with in a town you know well, versus a town you don’t know at all. A lot of elements go in to bringing a character to life, and one of them is the environment and props a character interacts with. This does not mean you have to be a slave to accuracy, historical or otherwise. If you have to bend a few dates and rules to make the story work––just do it.

Example: An Affair with Mr. Kennedy is set in the Spring of 1887. At one point, there is a chase scene that takes place high up in the Eiffel Tower, which was under construction at time. In the novel, the tower is partially built, but in actuality the tower was probably not much past the ground breaking stage. (See photo) But I couldn’t move the date up because of a conflict with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee procession which happened at the end of June, 1887. I figured it was safer to fudge the tower construction than Victoria’s celebration. So the Eiffel Tower remains half completed in the novel! 

Most all writers I’ve spoken with agree, you will always do more research than you’ll ever be able to use in your novels. However, I’ve noticed that the better researched I am the more comfortable I feel in the world I am creating. One of the advantages of setting a historical book in London is most of the streets, buildings, residences are all still there! I was able to visit 11 Lyall Street where Mr. Kennedy and Mrs. St. Cloud live in London. Walk the neighborhood. See how far away they live from Hyde Park.

Fun exercise: Go to Google Maps: 11 Lyall Street, London and select Street View. You can see where Mr. Zeno Kennedy and Cassandra St. Cloud live! (Hint: Grey roof, 2 black doors. Window boxes have pink flowers. Mews entrance appears to be closed off now.)


Why Supporting Characters Are So Important

Since the release of An Affair with Mr. Kennedy and The Seduction of Phaeton Black the supporting casts of both novels have received a good bit of attention, especially in reviews (including MsHellion’s) so I thought I might include a few tips and comments about secondary characters.

I spend a lot of time thinking about supporting characters as I am writing them into the story. Just as a craft device, I love how useful they are. They give your protagonists someone to talk to, which gets the hero and heroine out of their heads. Anytime you can tell your story through dialogue, I say do it! And FYI, even when your character is ruminating in his/her head, always write the narrative in character as internal dialogue.

I try to give every supporting character a distinct voice and personality, and make a point of adding something quirky to bring them to life quickly. Maybe it’s a peculiar speech pattern, or a physical handicap or an odd, repetitive behavior. And, don’t be afraid to let them steal the scene once in a while!



Scene by Scene Immersion World building

So, I’ve developed something I call immersion world building which helps me to fully realize a scene as I’m writing it and also in rewrite. World building is pervasive to plot, character, staging and pacing. Basically, as I write a scene I use three different types of world building: specific, supporting and sensory.

1. Specific: Details, factoids, actual newspaper items of the period, use of proper names
                  Example in bold:
                                    Contagious Diseases Act

2. Supporting: Supporting world building is descriptive, and often expository to the specific.
Example underlined:

With venereal disease rampant, and the Contagious Diseases Act repealed, men of means found the idea of a virgin, even if less bawdy, certainly a healthier amusement. It seemed the baser instincts of gentlemen of privilege would continue to find ways to avoid the pox at any cost, both to their pockets and to the lives of the innocent juveniles conscripted for such harsh duty.
                 



3. Sensory: Directly sensory or evoking the sensory/visceral
                                    Example in italics:

A low groan and squeaking bed springs drifted through the wall. Zeno raised an index finger to his lips and gave a nod to the adjoining room.


By the way, there is no set number of “gotta have” elements. These immersion techniques should ebb and flow through the manuscript. There are scenes I want to write very spare, and scenes that require more atmosphere. I tend use fewer supporting/descriptive elements when the pacing is fast. I want the reader to get caught up in the suspense!

I’ve included several opening paragraphs of An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, which utilize all of these immersion techniques. Once you get used to identifying the specific, supporting and sensory elements of world building, you can start checking your work!

Key: Specific is in bold.  Supporting is underlined.  Sensory is in italics.


London’s West End, 1887

Detective Inspector Zeno Kennedy unbuttoned his collar and pulled out a shirttail. “What have you got for me?”
Scarlet, aka Kitty Matthews, reclined on the mattress and struck a seductive pose. Propped on her elbows, the girl lowered and raised sultry green eyes in a brazen inspection of his person. “You blokes from Scotland Yard are a handsome lot.”
She arched her back and thrust her breasts up and out at him. Quite a robust figure––ample bottom and curvy topside. Studying her, he decided she could not be more than seventeen or eighteen years of age. A shapely little thing with chestnut colored hair, big green eyes and a button nose. She could easily raise a man’s temperature.
Zeno did his best to ignore the girl’s bountiful charms as he took up a post at the end of the bed-frame. “Actually, I work for Special Irish Branch.” He leaned over the brass rail.
Scarlet gaped at a bit of exposed chest. “Blue eyes and dark hair—Black Irish, are you?”
Zeno hastily pulled his shirt closed and admonished himself to be patient with his newest recruit. “Special Irish Branch is a division of Scotland Yard aimed at investigating anarchists. Fenians mostly. We’re after the blokes who want Home Rule for the Irish at any price, by any means.”
Her eyes grew wide. “The dynamiters?”
A low groan and squeaking bed springs drifted through the wall. Zeno raised an index finger to his lips and gave a nod to the adjoining room.
The budding beauty in front of him typified the adolescent female offerings of this pleasure house. Mrs. Jeffries’s, as it was referred to in hushed tones among gentlemen at their clubs, was a popular brothel marketing young women––very young. Some were girls who had not yet been spoiled, for a steeper price.
With venereal disease rampant, and the Contagious Diseases Act repealed, men of means found the idea of a virgin, even if less bawdy, certainly a healthier amusement. It seemed the baser instincts of gentlemen of privilege would continue to find ways to avoid the pox at any cost, both to their pockets and to the lives of the innocent juveniles conscripted for such harsh duty.
Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigations Department of the Metropolitan Police had moved on some of the worst offenders, but there had been tremendous pressure from the top echelons to keep the safer brothels open. As for the use of young girls, Zeno’s position was well known. Turning a blind eye to their plight made them all dirty.
“You sent an urgent wire, Scarlet. Anything to report?”

Commenters: Do you have any questions? Or any quick tips and techniques you’d like to share about world building? Please share and let’s chat! I have a signed copy of An Affair with Mr. Kennedy for a commenter chosen at random.

Watch for: A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis, the second novel in The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. This one is a rip roaring adventure and road trip story featuring a pair of estranged lovers. Release date: August 28.


About the author: In 2010, Jillian Stone won the RWA Golden Heart for An Affair with Mr. Kennedy (The Yard Man) and went from no agent or publisher to signing with Richard Curtis and being offered a three book contract by Pocket Books. She lives in Southern California and is currently working on a special Pocket Star e-novella for The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard.



Links for Jillian :

Facebook: Jillian Stone
Twitter: @gJillianStone
Pinterest: Jillian Stone
Purchase links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Indiebound

56 comments:

Maureen said...

Research this deep is why I don't write historicals...but I like the idea of the three layers of a made up world...

As most of the crew will tell you, I am tremendously suspicious of knowing my own techniques. Afraid I will kill the magic, or at least maim it!

Sounds like a delicious series and I'm a big fan of detective fiction in general! I'll keep an eye out for it.

Marnee Bailey said...

I love this blog. It's practical and gives great examples. Thank you so much Jillian. :)

I've been looking for stuff to fill my well and I have Mr. Kennedy in my TBR pile. I'm going for it today.

I like how you've broken this into supporting detail and sensory detail. It shows how you give a good mix and that's useful to me right now. I'm feeling a bit out of sorts with my tone and voice (think I'm just having a mental blockage). I think I'm just overthinking it but maybe delving into this stuff will make me feel a little more confident.

Thanks for hanging with us today, Jillian! And best of luck with your next releases!

TerriOsburn said...

This is like a Monday Master class. Excellent information with examples and everything. Thank you so much for doing this, Ms. Stone.

I too am working on the opening of the next WIP. Mine is contemporary, but I still need to set the scene, as it were. Not sure about the supporting elements, but I know I need more sensory. Much to think about today!

And more books to add to my TBR pile. I meant to get this after Hellie's review but life has been a bit crazy and I'm trying to read in my genre. Still, I do love a mystery with a yummy detective. I will be making an exception.

Vanessa said...

Wow, thank you for taking the time to do this. This is really wonderfuly information and really clarifies world-building for me.

Sin said...

The world building tips are absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for doing this. I'm but a novice at world building so I don't have any tips that would help anyone. But I'm really good at frustrating myself if you ever need help with that.

Gjillian said...

Maureen,

Research is definitely time consuming! There are times when I'm on deadline, and I'm searching for some factoid or other I want to use...clock is ticking...arrgh!

Lol! I never really analyzed my world building until I was asked to do a workshop for a local RWA chapter. So I sat down and tried to figure out what world building really was! I use the three elements now as a kind of checklist, especially in rewrite.

And I do hope you'll try one of the books, either Mr. Kennedy or one of the novels releasing this Fall!

TerriOsburn said...

Do we need to read the first book before picking up the novellas? Not that I have a problem with that, just curious as I might get to the shorter reads first. :)

Also, do you think using Deep POV helps with the world building, or maybe vice versa? Now that I think about it, the more details you've created in the world the enhanced the Deep POV can be.

MsHellion said...

My world building tends to be around things fictional, but I do like to draw maps and stuff so I don't confuse myself (overly) or put a building one place and have them exiting from somewhere else altogether. :) I think these tips for world building are relevant no matter what world you've created for your story. You need a Bible; you need details unique to your setting that immerses you in the world--so if you're not set in a specific time, then you need to create it. (Sherrilyn Kenyon is great at melding and building fictional worlds, using stuff from pantheons but also creating terms and details that are unique to her overarcing storyline. It's what makes her world really stand out.)

And yes, as for the Effiel Tower vs the Jubilee, I think you picked the right thing to fudge. *LOL* Wouldn't have googled it if you hadn't told me. *LOL* But maybe I would have if I was more a Paris fan than a London one, who knows? But I love the advice about picking and using research to be unique or discover or "exploit" something unique--but fudge a little if you have to to make the story work. :)

I find the Victorian era you write about fascinating for the reasons you list: Industrial revolution, women's suffrage, et al. And it is nice to have a working man vs a titled lord for a change!

I cannot wait for Rafe's book! *swoons* Thank you, thank you for blogging with us today!

Gjillian said...

Hi Marnee,

Oh I do hope my little world building chat was helpful.

My tone/voice comes directly out of the characters so, when I experience those issues, it's usually because one of the characters is off track. Or I don't know them well enough, and have to dig deeper. But those are my issues!

Enjoy An Affair with Mr. Kennedy!

Gjillian said...

Hi Terri.

So, I read the Fifty Shades of Grey series a couple of weeks ago (yes I admit it) and there was a scene in the second book that I think begins in a [hallway] and ends in a [room]. I swear, that's it, that's all the world building there was.

Now, it's a very edgy, dramatic scene, so a writer wouldn't want to clutter it with unnecessary detail, but for some reason, the lack of staging pulled me out of the scene entirely. I went back...I had a where the hell are they? moment, Lol!

You can really start reading at any place in the series, if you like you can always go back and read the others. Some of the characters are continuing and are briefly reintroduced in each book, even the bomb sniffing bloodhound!

Gjillian said...

Vanessa,

Oh good. It is always gratifying to hear that I've helped and not confused. I try to give really concrete tips and not talk too much about theory.

Gjillian said...

Hi Terri,

I forgot to answer your deep POV question. World building and POV should ebb and flow. If you stay super deep in a character's head, it can become exhausting. Plus you become sick of them, like being around a friend too much.

A first person novel written in deep POV can become really tedious. I hate to bring this example up again but, Ana in Fifty Shades of Grey...anyone agree?

But that said, yes, you are absolutely right! I love using little world building details and props to enhance the character or scene. Mr. Kennedy is alpha male and a bit of a control freak. When his housekeeper moves things it drives him crazy. So just the act of her moving some books on his desk helps create tension in the scene. ;)

TerriOsburn said...

I feel like any writer willing to read 50 Shades to find out what the fuss is about is taking one for the team. LOL! BUT I haven't read them (and don't intend to) so I shouldn't be snarky.

Thank heaven someone feels the same way. I admire any writer who can get that really deep POV, but at some point, as the reader, I feel like I'm being held under water. Let me breathe!

Love when the little things create minor tension that can make such a significant difference. I'm not very good at writing alpha males, but I'm currently writing an alpha female who is filled with insecurities. Makes her even more interesting to write.

Gjillian said...

MsHellion,

Thanks so much for inviting me!

My Steampunk novels (the Phaeton Black series) are set in the late Victorian time period but involve a lot of fantastical apparatus and paranormal elements. When you create a Fantasy world (Game of Thrones) you have to have maps and a bible. I recommend the world building outline from the Science Fiction Writer's Association. Here's the link and a few other interesting blogs on world building:

Tolkien on Elf Sex: http://www.ansereg.com/what_tolkien_officially_said_abo.htm
Thirty days of World building: http://www.web-writer.net/fantasy/days/index.html
Game of Thrones?: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

MsHellion said...

*LOL* I haven't read 50 Shades; however, being it was 'based' off Twilight fan fiction and I have read that, I can say I got really sick of being in Bella's head all the freaking time. *LOL* Only because she was a whiner though. :)

Gjillian said...

Sin,

I think as writers we all have to learn to balance craft (even something as simple as sitting down and writing everyday) with inspiration.

MsHellion said...

I have to say the information about Tolkien's Elf Sex is rather disappointing, but not surprising given his religious background. *LOL*

Oh, and I can practically pinpoint my Begetting Day, but that's because my parents were older and it was sorta rare. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Yes, the elf sex article is quite a let down. LOL! What a stick in the mud!

Off to check the other links.

Gjillian said...

Terri,

Alpha males or females need to have flaws just as villains have to have a sympathetic side. It just makes the story and interactions richer and more interesting.

In book #2 A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis, I've got a villain who is creepy, handsome and sympathetic. Not sure how he will be reviewed though...we shall see. ;)

Gjillian said...

Ms. Hellion and Terri,

Elf sex: Hahahaha! Sorry, didn't mean to be overly provocative. I include this bit in my world building handout just to remind writers of fantasy and paranormal that the creatures you create are sexual beings.

I think it is really important to know these aspects of all character's in your novels, as they lead you to interesting interactions. In the Seduction of Phaeton Black there is a supporting character, named Mr. Ping who transmogrifies into a female named Jinn. When I decided to make Ping a transsexual, I also decided that he sometimes changes at the most inappropriate times, which gives the *straight* characters something to react to!

TerriOsburn said...

Flaws we have. No problem there. A sympathetic villain sounds like added dimension for the character. I like the idea of making the reader kind of like the bad guy.

Once Chance wakes up and stumbles in here, she's going to be so excited. The links are right up her alley AND she has a transgender character she's about to turn into a hero.

How long did you spend creating this world before you started writing? And did a lot of the details, like Mr. Ping, come up as you went along or was everything pre-planned?

MsHellion said...

Oh, we love the provocative around here, but being I watched all the LOTR movies and am a Arwen&Aragorn shipper, I'm disappointed that they're a ill-fated romance. I mean, I got that from the movie, but it just...feels dated. It fits with his beliefs and the culture at that time, like you wouldn't mix black and whites in a marriage either, that sort of thing.

So it's interesting to think that the culture and world you build will eventually be "dated" to the people who may read or review your world building in the far-flung future. :)

MsHellion said...

If you have a sympathetic villain, I'll just expect him to get his own romance HEA, even if he isn't redeemed-redeemed. :) Sorta like Stryker in the Sherrilyn Kenyon DarkHunter series. He's a villain, but he still gets a wife and lifemate and has a side that makes him believe his POV is just as justified as the "right" side. More like Republicans vs Democrats versus Voldemort vs Harry Potter...

Janga said...

An Affair with Mr. Kennedy has been in my TBR queue since shortly after Hellie recommended it. I look forward to reading it once I get caught up on books I have to review.

Great information on world building! The points with examples make it both lucid and practical. I've been surprised by how much world building I need when writing contemporaries. I found early on that I needed a map and a history of my fictional small town and floor plans of some houses, and I have copious notes to make sure I have the right flowers blooming at the right time in the heroine's garden and the moon rise at the right time. As an academic, I find research fascinating and comfortable, but if I'm not careful, it becomes another way to procrastinate.

I think any writer will find Patricia Wrede's world building questions (the ones on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ of America web site) helpful, even though I doubt that many romance writers use all the questions.

Gjillian said...

Terri,

Sometimes weeks after I write a character I will add a quirk or trait and then go back and rewrite some of the scenes to reflect the addition to the character's personality. It is amazing how much it can enrich/improve the world.

quantum said...

Hi Jillian ..... welcome!

Like Janga I have 'An affair with Mr Kennedy' on my PC (bought after Hellie's review) but alas haven't started it yet. If I had known you would be visiting I'd have made more effort (hint!)

I really enjoyed Amanda Quick's early romances and if they inspired some of your ideas I think I have a treat in store.

I'm fascinated that you identify only three elements for 'immersion world building' for scenes. Remembering that the creator only needed three for the physical world (electrons,protons and neutrons) I guess that's reasonable!

After the Big Bang however, complexity began to emerge, initially with galaxies and stars.

Do you perhaps also formalise complexity for multiple scenes within your world building program? For example could 'Families or groups' be a further layer somewhat analogous to galaxies.

It would be intriguing (to me at least) to have a fairly complete 'Anatomy' of the story analysed in this sort of manner. It might then form the basis for a software program ..... if it doesn't already exist!

MsHellion said...

I'm sorry, Q! Jillian wrote this blog very quickly and we didn't have it planned out for very long. It was sorta spontaneous!! :) However, I'm hoping to have her back in August or September to maybe talk about her next book of the Scotland Yard if that's of any help to you.

You really should have moved it up the list. *LOL* It's awesome!

Gjillian said...

Hi Janga,

Even though all contemporary writers do more world building than they think they do, I think that they could all benefit from just a little more detail.

A well known romance writer I know has set several of her books in Hawaii and she once mentioned that a reader said to her: "...gosh I didn't even realize they were in Hawaii until you mentioned Waikiki..."

When you write contemporary, you don't have to do as much expository world building but a few details can greatly enrich the story!

And I do hope you enjoy Mr. Kennedy!

Maureen said...

Okay, okay! I'm awake. Not terribly alert but I'm awake... And elf sex... Hee, hee. I love how he seems to have contradicted himself and made everyone of importance someone who 'broke' the standard.

Lovely thing about being the writer... "I made a rule. Oh, well. I made it, I can break it."

Off to read the rest...

Gjillian said...

Hi quantum,

The *three elements* immersion techniques are a section of a much lengthier workshop on world building that I occasionally give here in SoCal to local RWA chapters.

Families and groups can play a huge role in a novel, especially if you have a series planned. Just introducing a clan of characters is challenging. How does a writer introduce an assortment of characters, differentiate them for the reader and still keep the story moving?

So many interesting challenges! Look at the number of characters that had to be introduced, and differentiated in Harry Potter or LOTR. Whew!

Maureen said...

Uh, wow. Now, I refuse to be intimidated by this massive list. I bet if I sat down and did it for The Kraken's Caribbean series, I'd have answered most of them. Just not beforehand!

Bookmarked...

I have a long driving trip ahead of me and intend to search for and pick up the books, Jillian. I do love me a good mystery!

And egads, what would I do if asked to analyze how I write? Well, first I'd contact Starbucks and see if they'd consider sponsoring me... ;-)

P. Kirby said...

Mmmm... Your books look utterly fascinating. *Makes note to put a couple in Pinterest To Be Read Board, because can't figure out anything else (useful) to do with Pinterest, anyway.*

World building: As someone who reads (and critiques) a lot of F/SF, I think the biggest problem isn't necessarily world building, but the presentation in the story.

Here's what I mean. Let's say you're reading a story in a contemporary setting. The protagonist is at the grocery store; she's in a hurry; so naturally, the woman ahead of her in line, MUST have issues. First, she makes a fuss about the price of every item, claiming everything rang up wrong. Cashier has to make multiple calls confirming the price of peaches and Captain Crunch. Then the lady's credit card is rejected; more drama. Heroine, waits, steaming, no other checkout line is open.

Contemporary writers usually (50 Shades, notwithstanding) do a good job of depicting their characters inhabiting their world. Characters are actively challenged by common aspects of day-to-day-life; they have opinions on things, etc.

F/SF, eh...not necessarily. Though the writer may build a complex world right down to the direction of currents in the oceans, the story ends up reading like a flat tour guide to The Magical Land. I think F/SFers can get so enamoured with their creation, they forget to show their characters interacting normally in this world. This comes down to an absence of any meaningful interaction with the environment; just a lot of gawping at pretty landscapes, castles, spaceships, etc.

For an author who does it right with world building, I'd recommend George R. R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire series/Game of Thrones. Expansive, logically consistent world building with characters who genuinely seem to live and breathe in that world. J.K. Rowling, of course, would be another.

Gjillian said...

MsHellion,

I've had three editors at Pocket Books. My second editor actually lasted through first edits on book two and I mentioned that I might want to do something very unexpected with Valor Mallory (villain) but she couldn't see it all, in fact, she was kind of horrified.

But my current editor, Kate Dresser, might be very interested in bringing him back at some point in the future, as an antihero/hero. So glad I didn't kill him off. Muah ha ha!

MsHellion said...

Elizabeth Hoyt has some very anti-hero/heroes that work in her Gilles St series. I mean Mickey the pirate is an outright VILLAIN, but he's a hot, scrumptious villain and I adored him finally ending up with Silence. I'm glad you didn't kill him off either. :)

Gjillian said...

Maureen,

If you click on each line of the SFWA outline you get a set of questions. The thing is massive and intimidating, but if you're writing a complex series it would be worth the months and months it would take to build the bible.

I often joke that if you're the type of writer who loves to put off writing, then the SWFA outline was designed just for you!

TerriOsburn said...

Pat had me worried there for a minute. I thought she was going after contemporary writers. ;)

My current series is set on a small island accessible only by ferry. I don't think I play up the environment enough. Especially not the sensory aspect. I'll be taking another pass to add in those details and bring this little island to life.

Gjillian said...

P. Kirby,

Again, it comes down to being so comfortable in the world you create, that you discover those checkout stand, humanizing moments and work them.

It might be that fantasy writers are a little too enamored with their world, or it could also be that they don't fully develop their characters and plot.

There was a reason George Lucas chose to make the spaceships and gadgetry beat up and unreliable. The Millennium Falcon breaks down and causes all kinds of suspense and tension, etc...

Good storytellers look for those opportunities.

I think I have made multiple references to both George R.R. Martin and J.K. Rowling. They both know how to bring all the elements of great storytelling together.

P. Kirby said...

Pat had me worried there for a minute. I thought she was going after contemporary writers.

I did read a mystery a while back where it was clear the author had visited the city--let's say Paris--fell in love and HAD TO set a story there. The protagonist was a native, but the narrative was brimming with gushy description that was obviously seen through a tourist's lens. Fail.

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - That's why I try to set stories in settings where I've actually been. I know you can find anything on the internet (and have to for anything Historical) but there are regional details you can only get by being there.

In the first book of the series, the heroine is coming to the island for the first time. In this book, both characters spent most of their lives on the island. Means "showing" the island to the readers in a different way. Not sure what way that is yet, but I'm working on it!

Maureen said...

There is an interesting discussion going on in one of the yahoo groups I belong to, about the difference between scifi, fantasy and paranormal and no one has brought up world building, but I do think it plays into what a reader expects and what you can 'get away' with as a writer.

Falling in love with the world and writing that love story is different than falling in love with the story and telling that... Which is what I think Pat means...

I took part in a panel a few weeks ago with an author who talked about building the world via how the characters react to it...one of those things I didn't realize I was doing.

Jillian, I really am terribly freaked at the idea of analyzing what I do...as I told Terri last week, I can get enamored of the rational behind a process to such an extent, I'll kill the process!

Yup, if anyone could do that, it would be me! I tend to build my bible as I go along, tracking my brilliant bits as I go along. But I purely invent my worlds, nothing based on what is 'real'...

Thank gods!

P. Kirby said...

In the first book of the series, the heroine is coming to the island for the first time. In this book, both characters spent most of their lives on the island. Means "showing" the island to the readers in a different way. Not sure what way that is yet, but I'm working on it!

Sounds like a neat setting! I guess the question is, "What's it like to live on an island? Do they have a Costco? Walmart? Home Depot? Or do you have to schlep over to the mainland for everything? Is there a nice, safe bridge or is everything done via ferry? What do your character love about the island? Hate?" That's the kind of stuff that makes a setting vivid to me as a reader.

I think mystery writers often really get it right when it comes to local culture. For example, New Mexico's own, late, great Tony Hillerman's mysteries were set on The Rez, the quirks and challenges of life there driving much of his plots.

Maureen said...

I so agree, Pat. I am in love with CJ Box and the Joe Picket mysteries...gives me a deep picture of Wyoming/Montana etc and the life of a game warden. All the bits and pieces that make it such a vivid picture, with very few poetic phrases.

Box will toss something at me, now and then, and just enough to catch me by surprise and take my breath away.

TerriOsburn said...

Think small, Pat. Entire village covers 2 miles, maybe. If you put a Walmart and a Home Depot side by side, they'd cover the island. LOL!

Everything is done by ferry, no bridges. And you have a good point. The heroine loves the island. Likes the isolation and the small world. Hero bolted right out of HS and hates the smallness of the place. Feels like you can't live in a place that small, with the big world out there to conquer.

So now I know how I can "show" the island. Heroine has to "show" it to the hero in a way that will make him fall in love with it again. Thanks for the idea!

Gjillian said...

Really great discussion!

The thing about analyzing any aspect of fiction writing is that ultimately it comes down to what you do with those all that craft you've learned.

At some point you have to forget about all the rules and just write your story. Most of the craft is pretty second nature for me now, but when I go into rewrite mode, I still do a mental checklist of a few crafty items:

1. Tighten up/deepen the POV including show/not tell stuff.
2. Look for specific, supporting, sensory opportunities.
3. Retool any love scenes and adjust hotness (+or -)

4. Add dialogue tags if needed.

What other things do you do in rewrite/edit?

JulieJustJulie said...

Welcome aboard Jillian!I too was intrigued by your book after reading Hellion’s review. Sadly I have not had a chance to read it , as I have sworn a vow of reading-abstinence until I help my lil Apprentice WIT (writer in Training ) go through his editing. Sigh.

Di R said...

Wow! What an amazing blog-I think you packed enough information in it to keep me busy for weeks.
My WIP is set in 1814 most of it in London, so I try to incorporate tidbits to remind the reader where the characters are without beating them over the head with it. One of my characters is an artist, so she notices the details that make up the big picture. Also, she hasn't been in town in five years, so she is the one I filter a lot of information through.

I will definitely look for your book.

Di

JulieJustJulie said...

Any quick tips and techniques you’d like to share about world building?

From a reader’s standpoint I HATE it when there are inaccuracies and discrepancies in a story. Makes the even a finely crafted story seem unpolished. A character that has blue eyes then brown … a scar on the left cheek in one scene that miraculously shows up on the right a chapter or a book later. Structures described one way, then another way… Ack!
Most writers have massive amounts of paper or online files filled with info on their characters, locations, etc. But, in the heat of creative creating who has time ( or wants to interrupt the creative flow ) with opening up & searching through the files for information. So. One of the things I have asked my Apprentice to do is get a recipe card box and write out pertinent info on each character. Because he is writing a series, I asked him to do the same for locations, buildings, and rooms that may show up again in his books. That way when he needs information he can find it quickly.
Simple. Neat. Fast. Helps keep inaccuracies out of the story, which makes my job easier. And more important it means the reader will not be “taken out” of the story by discrepancies.

Gjillian said...

Julie Just Julie

I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for two years and worked at Home Depot as a kitchen designer. (I'm not kidding.) And we had a manager there whose name was legally, Lisa Just Lisa. She changed it after her second or third divorce.

Anyway,someday I'm going to name a character with a *Just* between two first names. The concept and backstory are just too good not to use!

JulieJustJulie said...

What other things do you do in rewrite/edit?

One of the things I do ( haaaa here's where my years of being a mother come in useful )is to look for wasted Opportunities. I call this "Pandora’s Pill". I came up with the phrase when I was reading through a passage and the potential for some really Great Conflict was wasted when my apprentice 'solved" the situatio with a pill. Literally.
I sent the piece back with the message 'That's too easy. Make the character Work for a resolution to the problem. Or make them deal with the consequences of not finding a solution. Plus, you are missing an Opportunity to forshadow events that occur later in the story."
No Pandora’s Pill … you gotta open up the box. That's where creative story telling comes from, IMO.

JulieJustJulie said...

Haa, I have a sister named Lisa ... LOL.

Gjillian said...

Julie Just Julie,

It's called a bible. It is a good idea to keep a lengthy one and a short form version with pertinent details that are going to come up over and over (index cards).

I have a wonderful copy editor at Pocket (different from editor) who is also my fact checker. She catches everything! Like on the Eiffel Tower construction she wrote me a note in track changes: "The tower construction would not be much past ground breaking at this stage. What do you want to do about it?"

I wrote back: Can't move Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee so we're going with the tower as is.

BTW, I thought of another check list item: Repeat words/echos

Gjillian said...

LOVE Pandora's Pill! Never pass up an opportunity for conflict or tension!

I also think that writer's often tell me too much about what their character is thinking/feeling to the point that it takes all the intrigue sway, and with a character driven story it quickly becomes sleepy. You know what everyone is feeling and thinking and you can guess the ending so....why read further?

JulieJustJulie said...

Repeat words? Repeat words? Oooooh Repeat words!
Sorry ... couldn't help myself.

What do you want to do about it? That's my favorite question. the first time I called my WIT out was had to do with a building.
“You have X amount of stories in this building. On page Y you wrote XYZ so, how can that be possible? Break your own rule if you want, but you’re going to have to explain how you can do that to the reader.” He kept the building as is, but came up with a solution that would add a lot of conflict later in his story.

TerriOsburn said...

I always have to edit my black moment. I pull the emotional punches and then have to hammer them back in. I also switch words. Pour instead of pore. Wonder instead of wander. The brain she is a slippin'.

Maureen said...

That's my problem! I forgot to ask the wizard for a brain!

Gjillian said...

Julie, Terri, Maureen,

When I'm writing really fast I often misspell a sound alike word like pour/pore. It is a strange kind of writer's dyslexia.