Please welcome a good friend and fabulous guest author Chaeya!
She'll be giving away one free ebook copy and one free print copy of her latest release, Srae Iss-Ka-Mala, to two lucky commenters, so leave a comment to enter to win!
Most people hear the term "world-building" and they immediately think of other planets or dimensions. However, you don't have to be a fantasy or sci-fi buff to appreciate the art of world-building right here in third dimensional, planet Earth.
World-building occurs in every story regardless of the genre because it not only creates the setting and backdrop for your story, but it can also be used as a tool to further describe your characters. As people, we are all walking universes unto ourselves. Our world involves the city we live in, our workplace, the street our homes are located, and our home itself. Imagine your favorite movie and how the setting can seem almost a fantasy contained in its own world. Movies set in small towns have a knack of doing just this, and can sometimes seem the only place existing on Earth.
What we can learn from these movies is how authors can utilize the following elements to imbue more life into your stories and characters. A writer can relay much of the characters' personalities just by how they are placed in the scenery. So, in essence, building an effective world can participate in character development, resulting in less telling and more showing.
The City. I know we have continents, countries, and states, but to make it less complicated, I'll focus on cities. The city where your story takes place is the universe of your story. It is the cosmos of all those walking stars that populate it. Whether it be a small town or big city, the description will create the backdrop of your story. For instance, if you want a dark setting, you'd want to focus on the color gray and the mass of concrete, etc. If it's winter, you could describe the grit-covered snow in the gutters and parks filled with pale grass and leafless trees. Perhaps people pass by one another facing forward and not interacting. When they bump into someone, they don't pardon themselves. This sounds like a real hospitable place, doesn't it? NOT.
The Workplace and The Home. I would call a job or home the galaxy of your story, depending upon how much they feature in the setting and plot. Work tends to be a more popular setting than home. You can tell a lot about a character or characters simply from the décor of their office. I've worked in the corporate world for over 25 years, and I've been in many different types of offices. Is it a small dump filled with second-hand office furniture two decades late? This sounds like the firm is either cheap, or running on a shoestring budget. To describe a character's office as having rich, cherry wood panels, a big executive desk, and a wall filled with awards and degrees might portray a man as being successful, intelligent, and maybe a bit arrogant. One of the attorneys I work for has a row of little wind-up toys on his desk, signifying his playful nature; while another has a paper pile two feet deep on his desk and the floor surrounding it. He also has a sign taped to the wall for the cleaning crew that reads: Don't touch my mess! Everything I've written here can be used to describe a character's home, and applied in the same fashion.
Your Characters. Not many people mention characters as part of world-building, but they are an essential part of it. They are the suns, the planets, and the moons in your galaxy and your universe. Everything they wear, what they see, and how they interact with things and people around them participates in creating and completing the world you see that you wish to bring across to your readers. How does your heroine walk down the city's street? Does she look around at what's going on about her, or does she look down when she walks? If she looks down and walks slow, maybe she's depressed, or maybe she's an oddball who likes to see if she can find loose change on the ground. Does she fall in line with everyone else walking around her, or does she hang in the back, away from everyone else? These things can show the reader more about your characters' personalities.
It's true that people don't want to be bogged down with too much detail; however, all you need are a few sentences to get your point across. I’m sure many of you as writers know all of these elements and how to employ them; I only wish to give you another way of looking at world-building and some tricks on how to apply them to areas where you are challenged. By changing the way I looked at world-building and how to apply it to my own writing, I was able to be more patient in areas I wasn’t too fond of working on, such as time, place, and setting. It also allows me to plot better, when I decide to work on my universe or galaxy. However, let’s not forget the most important feature of world-building and that is: have fun.
Chaeya is a storyteller, songwriter, musician, poet, and all around daydream believer. When she isn't being domestic with her husband and two daughters, she fancies herself the Empress of Ev*A*Dream as the leader of the band "Chaeya and Her Dark Secret." She performs often around Southern California.