Worldbuilding 101

Please note…I’m probably still whining about pain and being miserable, and yes, possibly milking things for all they are worth-I don’t do pain well.  In other words-I won’t be online for a few more days, so don’t be surprised if I’m not really answering Qs or commenting…sorry!

When I was at Nationals, I was doing this thing with Angela Knight and Michelle Rowen.  We got to talking about our respective paranormal worlds and how things work and I mentioned that generally, I try to make things make sense from at least a basic, biologic point of view.  By the way, Michelle mentioned this upcoming series she’s got coming out and damn-I WANT. NOW.

I love talking with other writers…I love it.   And those who do paranormal and can talk world building?  I think we could have talked for hours.

I love talking about world building, and how we can twist conventional rules…but even when you’re twisting them, you still have to make sure your world makes sense.

Even though I know vamps aren’t real, I want to believe they could be when I’m reading, so nothing irritates me more than reading a book and having faulty world building jump out at me.

I hate flawed worldbuilding.

I mean, I can handle the hero or the heroine doing stupid crap, especially if it’s earlier, or even midway through the book/series and I can see the potential for growth or learning.  Shoot, sometimes I even like that, because why am I reading it if the people are already close to perfect?  Where’s the chance for growth, improvement, change…I just like flawed characters.  Flawed…of course, not stupid.  Difference between a character making stupid mistakes and a character being stupid.

So while I can handle flawed characters, I hate it when the worldbuilding is flawed.

I want my worlds to make sense.  I’ll be honest, I’m probably a tougher customer when it comes to reading stuff than some.  Not only do I have years of fantasy and SF reading behind me, I’m also a nurse and I want things to make sense on a basic biologic level-yeah, even though I know this stuff isn’t real, a good writer can make think it can be.  On the flip side, a writer who can’t create a solid world…well, she’s lost me.  Even if the romance is interesting, even I’m curious about what’s coming next.  If the world doesn’t hold for me…I’m gone.

Even though I love paranormal romance, a lot of popular paranormal romance authors don’t work for me, because their worlds aren’t solid.

  • The reasonings for this ability (ie: a woman suddenly comes into a paranormal skill and can do no wrong–she doesn’t have to learn anything-she can do it all, just like that)
  • The weaknesses for that (ie: this particular thing doesn’t affect me, but if you show me that, I’m dead)
  • Mirrors-I’m sorry, don’t give me a vampire romance where the vamp doesn’t have a reflection.  I don’t care if it’s tradition.  It’s stupid.  If he takes up space, he’s got mass…he’s going to have a reflection.
  • The physiologic changes that take place in the worlds of some writers do not make sense to me…

And I like things to make sense.  Both as a diehard paranormal reader, and as a nurse.  As a nurse, I want to know there’s just something that could explain why this would happen-why that would happen.  If you can’t give me a reason, then it doesn’t make sense.  Because I said so isn’t a reason.  Because I thought it was cool isn’t a reason… O.o  You get my point, probably.

I’ll use my Hunters as an example-I give my vampires typical vampires weaknesses…when they are young.

Sunlight can kill. A stake through the heart can kill-actually, anything that destroys the heart can kill, be it a stake, silver.  They are particularly prone to fire.

But as they age, they become stronger.

Not just because I say so, either-I try to back it up.

Sunlight can kill…but after their first century, they slowly develop a tolerance to it, allowing them a few seconds of sunlight, the weaker light of dawn or dusk.  And as centuries pass, this tolerance builds up.

A stake through the heart, or a silver knife can kill, even as they age–but it’s going to be harder, because as my vamps age, their bones become tougher, stronger.  The rib cage is already a pretty sturdy concoction and after four, five hundred years, a vamp’s ribcage in my world is almost about as strong as steel.

Fire, though, that’s still their biggest weakness, and it makes sense-after all, anything will die if it’s burned and even though vampires heal fast, if a person decides to use fire against them, they aren’t going to give them time to heal in between roasting sessions.

Since I like things to make sense, nothing aggravates more when I’m reading than to be enjoying a book and then all of a sudden, something flies out of left field that just doesn’t make sense.  Or rules that change from one book…or one chapter to another.  I get frustrated when I read a book where the book could have been awesome…if the author had taken some time to establish more solid rules, or if she had kept to her original rules.

A few things about worldbuilding:

  1. Make your own rules-by all means-just make them make sense.
  2. Once you make your rules? Stick to your rules.
  3. Break whatever traditions you want-go hog wild. But make sure there is a rhyme and reason.
  4. If you’re going to jump on the paranormal bandwagon, go for it. But before you just go nuts, trying reading a lot of paranormals. And maybe read a lot of books on paranormal stuff-some of the books on my shelf include things like The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead , The Element Encyclopedia Of Ghosts And Hauntings, Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, etc. When we go out of town, I tend to buy local ghost stories and folk lore.
  5. Maybe most important…if you’re not comfortable with worldbuilding, or if you don’t like it, maybe it’s just not your thing. Don’t try to force it just because it’s the ‘thing’ right now. Worry about crafting your thing…who knows, maybe that’s the next big thing and you’ll be ahead of the game.

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