World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 1

World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 1

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Do your characters exist in a specific time and place? Of course they do. Pride and Prejudice would look very different if the story took place in Communist Russia during the Cold War, for example. But how much of your character's world are you sharing with the reader? And just how much is necessary?

All writers must convey era and place. Readers appreciate "knowing where they are"--that's what World Building accomplishes.

An overdose of detail stops a reader, just as a deficiency causes reader confusion. But proper use of World Building keeps the reader in the moment of the story and compelled to keep reading, whether it be a mystery, historical novel, or romance. Especially if the work is "contemporary" because the "current" situation may be past by the time the book makes its appearance.

Today's writers often wrestle with how much and which detail the reader needs. Perhaps the better question is: Do we know where we are? A sleek black Cadillac limo only conveys the car itself, while a banged up Ford pickup vintage 1960s among a parking lot of high-end SUVs gives era and contrast of economic, social, or personal preferences. And this bit of detail can give effective character insight as well.

This tutorial is taught by Charlotte Cook, former publisher and acquisition editor, and currently working as a story editor along with her cohort Mariah Klein, writer, educator and blogger. Both Charlotte and Mariah are experienced in discussing World Building and its use in genre and mainstream fiction, as well as nonfiction. Charlotte and Mariah are guided by the essentials of compelling story, engaging characters, and an evocative world. Both also are practical in their advice and examples, mentoring many writers to successful publication.

In this 39-minute tutorial video, you’ll discover:

  • How to think of World Building as a strategy rather than details or description
  • How to choose the pieces of era, setting, and geography that will effectively convey these aspects in terms of story arc
  • How to manage tension with elements of World Building

With the tips, examples, and discussion provided by this tutorial, you might find that some of your instincts were right but your application needed refinement--a more dynamic approach. That desire to "tell" will be replaced by the light touch of a confident writer who knows that era and place are essential elements within the story and for the reader.