Monday, September 1, 2014


Five Tools for World Building in Historical Fiction


Right around the time of the Romance Writers of America's annual conference in July, I came across a two-part article on world-building for historical fiction novels by author Tim Weed for The Grub Daily.

I read the article over and over again, thought about it a lot, tweeted about it, then thought about blogging about it, then promptly forgot about it. Then suddenly last night, when I was wondering whatever I am going to blog about tomorrow, it flashed in my inward eye (misquoting Wordsworth) and was deemed perfect for today's offering.

I am going to very briefly summarize the article's five main points below. However, I urge you to read the article in its entirety here and here.

Vivid Descriptions of Nature
We instinctively recognize natural landscapes, whether or not we've spent a significant of time communing with nature and whether or not the landscape is deeply familiar or completely foreign. As a result, they always elicits deep emotional responses.

Accurate Portrayal of Recognizable Human Emotions
Evoke plausible and vivid emotional states for your characters that ring true to us and they will come alive for us, and through the characters, hook us into the story.

Incorporating the Exotic
Provide us with a vicarious experience of the unfamiliar. Make us see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, touch it, sense it.

Defamiliarization
Show a different way to see the same situation or person. Show something that is "familiar, even clich├ęd, in a compelling new light. In the process, it makes us wake up and pay attention."

Use Period Details—But Sparingly
Don't fall into the temptation of an infodump. All your research doesn't have to be unloaded into your story. You want to add it delicately like a strong spice in your dish. The nuances are where the beauty is, not in the actual description. "Remember: period details must make sense given what's happening in the story and the point of view character's emotional state."

Summation
"Vivid, concrete, specific detail is the lifeblood, the gods' nectar, of fiction."


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