Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#GuestPost by Natasha Brown, author of the Shapeshifter Chronicles on #fantasy #worldbuilding

Writers have the world at their fingertips. Any world.

I have the power to create anything I want in any place or time. It’s quite a pleasure, really. By tapping my fingers across the keyboard I can give life to characters that react to each other and their environment. Similar to a science experiment, you don’t always know what will happen until you’re in moment, feeling it with them. Sometimes your own story can surprise you.

When building a world in a fantasy series there are many things to consider. If magic or paranormal powers are involved, where did they come from? What are the rules? In my series, The Shapeshifter Chronicles, I had to sit down and think it over.

A good rule of thumb – nothing should be all powerful. Everything must have a chink in the armor, no matter how strong or impressive, like one of my favorite childhood stories, The Hobbit. Smaug the dragon was a powerful creature that harassed the people of Middle Earth for generations. It was the wise and watchful hobbit, Bilbo Baggins who noticed a weakness in the beast’s scaly armor, which is what led to the dragon’s downfall.

When working with fantasy or sci-fi, limitations are important. Weakness and strength are two essential elements to balance. In my novels I had to make plenty of tricky choices. When my character shapeshifted would he retain his clothing or not? Would there be a price for using his powers? Were his powers unlimited? Was he born with the ability or was it a learned skill?

I have always loved reading fantasy, but one of my pet peeves is when the rules in a world just don’t make sense. Okay, I know that sounds silly, because c’mon we’re talking about things that are make-believe. They aren’t really real, right? Sure. But that’s not so in a fiction story. If you don’t believe in the world you’re reading about, there’s a problem. You should believe and completely forget about your shopping list, or your dinner sitting on the table.  The good old fashioned reasoning of, ‘because I said so’ doesn’t always work with world building. I am not a physicist and I did not get a Masters in college. But I don’t need one to create a new world. All you need is patience and time to think it through (then think it through again). Look at it from all sides and try to poke as many holes into your reasoning as possible because everyone else will.

There will always be people who won’t buy it. There are actually readers out there that never liked The Hobbit, or A Wrinkle in Time and countless other classic fantasy novels. But everyone’s a critic. As a writer, the most important thing to remember is – first you must believe it if you’re going to try to convince anyone else.

So, squeeze your eyes tight and repeat after me, I believe.

Natasha Brown

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  1. I believe, I believe... Great article Natasha! You gave me some fresh insight into world building. I agree, just because we write fantasy doesn't mean we don't have certain rules we should follow. I'm loving "Prodigy" so far :)

  2. I didn't like the Hobbit when I was first introduced to it--took me years to get around to reading Lord of the Rings, but then I was hooked and loved the Hobbit too. So, even if the reader's not impressed today, real world-building just might worm its way into the same reader's heart tomorrow.