Worldbuilding

This week’s episode of the Writing Excuses podcast is on a highly interesting topic: how to insert worldbuilding into character viewpoint, and why is this a good idea. Essentially, we are talking about worldbuilding that happens without it being explained directly on the page. The approach is great because it avoids blocks of explanatory text and permits detail that would otherwise not be easily included. It allows the writer to add emotional responses to worldbuilding elements, highlight (mis)conceptions about the world based on character background, describe underlying elements of conflict (not everybody sees the world the same), and produce a rich narrative with hints of mythology, history, political opinion, religious beliefs and so on beyond those directly relevant to the plot.

As a reader, these are all things I want to know, but I don’t necessarily want them spelled out as general narrative where they can feel clunky and slow. I would quite like to know what the people in city X thinks of the people in city Y, if this varies with social standing or age or occupation or something else, if the assessment is fair and if it is based on history, geography or beliefs. I would, however, get quite bored if the writer listed these permutations outright. Give me an overview for sure, but then feed me the details within the story, let me experience it first-hand through the characters when and where it happens. The politician from city X can use swearing that offends the dragon-tamer from city Y, who might respond in kind with a disparaging reference to the history of X, which differs entirely from how the same history is depicted by the politician, and both of them have probably built parts of their identity on these differing accounts so you bet there will be arguments and misunderstandings and wonderful, wonderful drama.

In short, I can guarantee I will be much more intrigued if the history, geography, conflicts, politics and beliefs of the world are woven into the characters as well as the plot.

Go listen here:

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard When you’re defining your world for the reader, some voice in the text must speak those definitions. This episode is about how we use character voices—their dialog and their narrative view points—to worldbuild. What do they see? How do they perceive it? What are their favorite jokes?… via 14.5: Viewpoint as Worldbuilding — Writing Excuses

science-fiction-1855803_640

Advertisements

Reblog: On Desiring Dragons

There is a great post over at Austin Hackney‘s blog about the fantasy genre and why we read it. I thoroughly recommend it. The post got me thinking about some of the theories on perception, memory formation and storytelling (there is an overlap, I promise), and I might write a small, slightly sciency post on how we all ‘write’ our own realities at a later stage. In the meantime, I suggest you head over to read On Desiring Dragons:

A Fantastic Question Family members, friends, and colleagues have all asked me why I read fantasy. I’ve given different answers in different contexts at different times to the persistent question, “Why read fantasy literature?” This post is a distillation of my current defense of fantasy. But let me…

via On Desiring Dragons: Why Read Fantasy Literature? —

fantasy-1183666_960_720

 

2017 in horror, fantasy, sci-fi and non-fiction

As usual, I’ve got a long list of books that I want to read in 2017. My goodreads reading challenge is at a modest 35 and I have no specific plans for which ones I’ll choose, but there a few new releases in my preferred genres this year that I’m particularly excited about.

Horror: In the past I’ve tended to seek out older horror novels, but several upcoming releases have caught my eye this time around. Ania Ahlborn’s The Devil Crept In, which centres around disturbing disappearances in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, looks great. As does Little Heaven by Nick Cutter, a tale set in a ominous New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. I’m also keen to read Cherie Priest’s Brimstone, described by the author as one part Penny Dreadful and one part American Horror Story. Should be fun! Finally, there’s Sarah Pinborough’s Behind her eyes, which I am getting simply on the back of knowing Pinborough’s knack for deeply unsettling and menacing storylines.

BrimstoneBehind Her Eyes

Sci-Fi and Fantasy: Having read the two previous Aftermath books, I’m keen to see how this Star Wars space opera featuring Norra Wexley and her rag-tag team ends in Aftermath: Empire’s End (Chuck Wendig). I’m also looking forward to the final installment of V.E.Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, A Conjuring of Light, in which the fate of the four Londons will be settled. Oathbringer, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s fantastic Stormlight Archive series, will be released in November, and I’m salivating at the promise of another visit to Roshar. M.R.Carey releases the prequel to the excellent apocalyptic zombie story Girl with all the Gifts, titled The Boy on the Bridge, and on top of that, Neil Gaiman is fictionalizing Norse mythology in the book by the same name, which should be a treat. 2017 looks like it will be a good year for fantasy and sci-fi.

Empire's End: Aftermath (Star Wars) by Chuck Wendig

Non-fiction: In terms of non-fiction, I have singled out Beyond Inifinity: an expedition to the outer-limits of mathematics by Eugenia Cheng and In Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra. Both come highly recommended and the topics are intriguing and wonderfully complex, so my expectations are high.

 

2016 in books – a selection

I’m thrilled about by my reading list for 2016. Something old, something new, all of it exciting. These are the novels I particularly can’t wait to read.

2016 releases

The Bands of Mourning / Shadows of Self (Brandon Sanderson). Fantasy western set in the vast cosmere. I’ll be reading both back to back after the Bands of Mourning is released later this month. Having enjoyed the first book, Alloy of Law, immensely, it’s terrific to be having two new ones on my list.  

Fellside (M. R. Carey). Creepy, atmospheric Yorkshire-based story from the author of The Girl With All The Gifts?  Yes, please. April release.

Edit: I’ve just learnt that one of my writer friends on Twitter, Austin Hackney, is releasing the first book, Beyond the Starline, of his steampunk trilogy, Dark Sea. Will definitely be picking that one up too. http://www.thedarksea.com/Beyond the Starline

 

Pre-2016 releases

Find Me (Laura van den Berg). Dystopian novel that has been compared to Never Let Me Go and A Handmaid’s Tale.

The Emperor of All Maladies (Siddharta Mukherjee) – winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. A personal, historical and medical account of cancer.

Star Wars: Aftermath (Chuck Wendig). This one has received mixed reviews, but after seeing the film (twice), it’s definitely high up there on my list.

The City and The City (China Miéville). It’s been on my list forever, and I don’t know why I have not read it yet. Has received accolade upon accolade, and I’m sure I’ll be beating myself up for not reading it sooner.

1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow (Adam Zamoyski). Recommended by a friend, whose opinion I highly value. Excited to delve into a part of history about which I know embarrassingly little.

The Haunting of Hill House / We Have Always Lived In the Castle (Shirley Jackson). Classic horror that I’ve somehow not read yet. I’m utterly thrilled to have them in store.