World-building (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Today I’m blogging about the “World-building for Your Werewolf, Duke, or Small-Town Doctor” Workshop presented by speaker Tanya Michaels during RWA’s 2010 Convention.

Writers hear a lot about the importance of world-building. But what is it that makes it so important? Well, it’s what draws readers into your story. It also what makes your book unique. Even if the core story is one that others have heard before, your world should be new.

Every story—whether it is a paranormal, historical or contemporary—has a world. A writer focuses on developing this world in order to have a compelling story.

Some tips for effective world-building:

  • Determine the scope of your world and what its rules or constraints are, and then stick with them.
  • Use language to your advantage. If you write medical novels, you’ll need to have some knowledge of medical lingo. If you’re writing romance, use endearments to emotionally connect your characters.
  • Infuse your story with real world characteristics: politics, legends, etc. If you are writing romance between two coworkers, you’ll want to establish the office politics. If it’s a paranormal romance with a vampire and a werewolf, a completely different set of politics will apply.
  • Establish your world’s values. Not just what the characters physically value (gold, or food if it’s a dystopian fantasy), but also moral values. Maybe in your vampire society murder isn’t looked down on, or it’s a historical where forward-thinking females are ostracized.

Do you have any tips for effective world-building? A favorite author who excels at it?


4 thoughts on “World-building (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

    Rachel Firasek said:
    November 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I love the world Laurell K Hamilton built in the Anita Blake series. I can go to any book and know exactly what the rules and obligations for that world are. She’s a master at setting, mood, and over all environment. I worship her–can you tell?

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      November 22, 2010 at 9:58 am

      I hear you, Rachel. Sometimes there are authors that resonate with you deeply, and I think it’s all due to the world-building. For me, it’s Jeaniene Frost, Larissa Ione and Karen Marie Moning. 🙂

    claudia alexander said:
    November 22, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I worship Karen Marie Moning! I want to live in her Dublin. (Well, visit anyway, as it is a pretty nasty place). But my vote for the best in contemporary world building is JR WArd with her Caldwell New York location, and the knightly Black Dagger Brotherhood. It’s pretty complete as a world goes, with it’s own language, and class system, and it’s pretty compelling. I’d love to live there! Honorable mention (for me anyway) goes to Nalini Signh for her Psy/Changling world. The way she’s built a tri-fecta of Humans, and Changlings, and the Psy is really compelling. Talk about office politics! LOL With both Ward and Sighn, the worlds are rich enough to warrant spinning off new characters — if only to explore more of the environment. For me that’s the key to good world-building, having enough richness that readers want to come back.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      November 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

      That’s such a good point, Claudia. When world-building is thorough, it has the capacity to give birth to related stories/spin-offs. And yes, I agree, Nalini Singh is full of awesome. 🙂

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