Worldbuilding: For Specific Genres
As I said this past week, all novelists are worldbuilders. It is our job to give the reader a comprehensive picture of the character and the influences which affect his/her environment. You don’t have to infodump and overwhelm the reader with detail. They just need to know enough to create an accurate scenario in their mind.
I’m sharing this article from WritersWrite about worldbuilding for every genre. Sure, there are factors in common to all. The trick is to take the general and make them specific to your genre.
Fantasy/Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction: In this genre, imagination is everything. You are creating from the word Go. That makes it easier…and harder. You make the rules from scratch. Consistency is the key.
Historical Fiction: The bonus is that when you write for a specific period you get an opportunity to research and reuse information. Regency, Victorian, Edwardian-ample knowledge exists for a genuine feel to your story. I recently purchased books on Edwardian farming and Wartime farming. Two people studied these eras, lived the lifestyle, and gave their impressions of what would be reasonably expected. Fascinating reads.
Suspense: Keeping the energy high and the threat real is more than a character thing. But if you have them running down a dark alley in a blood-stained shirt, it is easier to visualize the danger. Cue up the psychological triggers whether in the setting, climate, or surrounding culture. In Crystal Unicorns, I used quick contrast to catch the reader off guard. The antagonist is only predictable by his overwhelming drive to a single objective.
Horror: It’s all about the darkness. Whether it’s broad daylight or midnight in the forest. The darkness may reside in a human soul but the surroundings accentuate that aspect.
Mystery: The key to this genre is the ability to leave breadcrumbs and lead the reader down blind alleys while keeping them interested with the interaction between characters. In the Sherlock Holmes novels, his residence, attire, demeanor, and other aspects of his everyday world remain pretty much the same. It is the crime scene and the cast of characters that change.
Western: Is it the heat and sand of the desert or the cool, green hillsides? Is the protagonist clad in leather chaps and born to sit tall in the saddle or a city woman turned country learning to adapt?
Young Adult: Remember who you are writing for. The Harry Potter novels brought new and different characters, settings, and magic. But Rowling did such a fine job of creating her world and we felt so comfortable in, some people continue to role play as if they lived there.
Literary: Since it is less plot and more character based, one might think the world around the character is less important. Not so. Our environment affects us, molds us, so it may act as a character in itself. (See future column)
Your world can fit the expectations of your readers or you can go your own way and label the genre Mainstream. I plan on sticking with Romantic Suspense, light on the romance. It seems to fit well with my way of thinking.
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As I said last week, keep a notebook with your characters, basic plot/outline, and a breakdown of the world they move in. I am a firm believer in hardcopy after seeing so many people lose their work on the computer. When my house burned down, one of the few things found in the rubble was a pink flash drive with my writing on it. A little singed but it still worked. I don’t know if I could have stood the loss of my work on top of everything else. Please make sure you have a backup off site.