Posted in writing inspiration, Writing tips

Setting and World Building

Do you find yourself looking for books set in certain places? Or do you read the blurb of a book and choose it over another because of where the story takes place? Setting and world building can be as important as the character. Often, the setting or world becomes another character in the story.

In Mortal Engines, the worlds were different with their own personalities and quirks. Each one was distinct from the other and played a large part of what the characters go through to reach their goals and change.

In The Hunger Games we leave poor, rural District 12 to go to the Capitol, which is like leaving reality and going down Alice’s rabbit hole. These two distinct settings play a part in showcasing our characters and establishing who they are. Katniss is who she is because she is from District 12. Her character would react differently had she been for any other place. During the games, the world or setting changes and the players have to adapt to survive. This changing world is as much a character as the players themselves.  

As readers, we love to be immersed in a story-world and feel as if we are a part of it. Whether we are traveling back in time or soaring through the galaxies, when a writer paints a vivid picture of their world, we forget we are reading, as everything comes alive, we become actors on the stage playing out in our heads the story as it unfolds.

There are authors whose work is so detailed as to even describe the cracks in the china cup from which their character is drinking. They wax poetic upon each nuance and detail until the world is exactly as they see it leaving no room for error on the part of the reader.

Then there are the few who give so little information it feels as if the characters are acting on a white stage or within the darkness of a deep cavern. Though either would have some sensory stimulation, too often writers who do this fail to take into account the characters’ reaction to the nothingness.

When an author gets it right and finds that balance, in my opinion, is when they give just enough description that the reader can use their imagination to fill in the rest of the details. If I describe blue silk drapes the color of the sky. Many colors come to mind. Is it the pale blue of a summer sky, or the vibrant blue of spring, perhaps it’s the navy blue of midnight or the almost purple of sunset? Depending on our own moods or the tone of the story where our minds might take us with this description. While the curtains might not be important to the story and their color doesn’t matter, if it is tied to a character’s memories or emotions, then it becomes more so. The blue silk drapes were the color of a sunny sky in spring, reminding her of his eyes. She should have the curtains removed. The simple change in the description gives you more details about the character as well as describing the room. What does it really matter what color the curtains are? If it’s not important to the story, the description serves little purpose.

Setting and world building are the stage where your story plays out. Star Wars would be a totally different story if set in the old west yet there have been critics who have described it as thus. When George Lucas first began designing the scene for the movie, they used what they knew and set it outer space. What does a trading post look like? Or a marketplace?

In one of my stories, I have a setting, a local café. In rural eastern North Carolina this café’s atmosphere, clientele and even the language spoken, or accents differs greatly from one set in the western part of the state. How different would it be from a café in New York City or even upstate New York? How about a Parisian café? While cafes worldwide might be similar, they all serve food, have tables and seats, someone to serve, but what makes this café different? While I could just say it’s a café, I added a few layers of interest. It used to be the old train depot. It’s been in the family for fifty years. It’s a local hangout. While these things don’t tell you how the café looks, it gives you a feeling of why it’s important.

How important are the details? Well, if someone is thrown from the second story balcony and you’ve never mentioned a balcony, that can take your reader out of the story. A simple description of the character wondering at the view from the second story balcony, could at least establish it as fact. If the main character had reason to be up there and look out, maybe that would add to the mystery or suspense. They were seen on the balcony just minutes before the victim was tossed over the side. Now they’re a suspect.

As writers we have to remember that the importance of the setting and description, is how it affects the characters and the plot of the story. If we mention a gun over the mantle, then that gun must be important at some point in the story.

Happy world building and keep on reading.

Posted in Creekside Cafe, interview

On The Porch With Kevin Lane

Welcome to my virtual café, author Kevin Lane. This is my daydream to have a coffee shop on the river to visit with my writer friends. The Netherlands is a long way from North Carolina, do you live on the coast?  

Kevin: No actually. I live rather close to the German border if I’m being honest!

Sherri: We have several Dutch communities in eastern North Carolina. My mother-in-law was raised in Terra Ceia, a small community near Pantego. She even worked on the tulip farm and tulips are still one of her favorite flowers. Do you live in the country or city? How does where you live effect your writing?

Kevin: I have lived mostly in urban areas over my life. I pretty much grew up in what is often called my city’s ghetto! It was interesting as it taught me early not to judge by first appearances and I reflect that in my work!

Sherri: How long have you been writing? When we were talking earlier, you said you’ve been planning your world since age six. Did you start writing your story then?

Kevin: The worldbuilding back then was mostly a way for me to deal with my home situation. I won’t go into too much detail, but it was pretty unpleasant back then. I did not start writing my story until about age 12. Those stories were bad, I cringe when I remember them. The current story did not enter its first version until I was 17 when the base elements started being created that makes my main hero and villain who they are!

Sherri: You’ve published a short story on Wattpad, is this part of your novel?

Kevin: It is not. It is supposed to be the start of a larger story based on the series RWBY. It is a very Great world which I feel more can be done with and I wished to try my hand at it. I’m actually planning a follow up and to create JADE as a proper mini writing series. Of course, I will be focusing on my main novel as a priority!

Sherri: Do you find it difficult to juggle real-life work and your writing life? How often to you write? Do you have a schedule?

Kevin: It is sometimes. I have trouble maintaining a schedule in combination with my work, but I would not want to quit because a writer is what I wish to really be!

Sherri: Is there a writing community in your town? I belong to a great local community and an international community they have been a big part of my getting published.

Kevin: There are very few local communities and the ones that exist are mainly book clubs and not focused on writing. Netherlands simply is focused on a pretty grounded living which does not often support creativity!

Sherri: You write fantasy, can you tell us about your novel? When do you hope to release it?

Kevin: It is more dark fantasy. It can be described as Game of Thrones meets Lord of the Rings as my dad put it. It takes place in a world ravaged by chaotic energy which causes natural disaster and beings called Remnants to pop up and with the lack of balance the world is slowly crumbling into the void. It is a very unforgiving world in which death is just a part of life. A religion actually spouts the importance of death to return energy to some Lord of Light. Much attention has been put into the political climate of my world as it is central to the story. I like to say Frostspire is the first chapter of a much larger story. As for a release date, I really can’t say. I still need to work on it a bit as I feel a few things don’t flow as I want them to. But my aim is a 2021 release if possible!

Sherri: I started writing at ten years old. A friend’s hurtful comment kept me from sharing my writing for several years. Another friend and my husband encouraged me to start taking my writing seriously and follow my dream. It takes a lot of courage to put our work out there for others to read. Are you ready to deal with good and bad feedback?

Kevin: I feel so long as it is about my work or my personal actions, I can be fine with it. Bad feedback is a part of putting yourself out there. I am rather shy and anxious much of the time which is why I tend to not show my face much. I believe my work should speak for me.

Sherri: You’re a gamer, what are some of your favorite games? Do they influence your writing? Have you considered writing for games?

Kevin: Video games are a medium I enjoy. Mainly ones that require tactical thinking. Fire emblem. Many JRPG’s (Japanese Role Playing Games). But of course, ones with a great story are my favorites. I love Pokemon, but that is one area it tends to lack in a bit. I have considered writing for video games at one point, but I decided that if I did a visual medium, I should do anime as it is more story driven.

Sherri: What do you love about writing? What has been the most difficult for you to learn?

Kevin: I love the ability for pretty much everyone to share their own Fantasies. Some want to write about an epic fantasy adventure to slay a dragon. others about a coming of age story. And others have more…. physical fantasies. Personally, I think it’s all great as we live in an age where writing is more accessible than ever before as back then it was hidden behind publishers; services like Amazon kindle have made the process much smoother.

As for what was hardest to learn, I would have to say accepting not everyone will like what I write! We as writers have an omnipotent view of our world and so everything is clear to us but to our readers it might seem confusing if we write with that assumption and so I had to learn to write as if I was reading it.

Sherri: I’m so glad we met on Twitter. The Shameless Self Promo group has been an awesome boon. I’m not sure if they’ve helped me sell books but they’ve taught me about marketing, and I’ve made some awesome friends.

Kevin: Yeah, the others are amazing. And I’m glad I met you and them! The promo group helped keep me motivated when I was not feeling well and I’m really grateful for that.

Sherri: Thank you Kevin for joining me on the porch of my Creekside Café. I wish you all the best with your career and thank you all for joining us for another Creekside Café Chat. If you enjoyed this interview you can follow Kevin on social media and keep a lookout for his upcoming novel.

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