November 22, 2016

Why Build a World For Your Story?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Writers Magazine 

Believe it or not, most times, the setting we choose for our story is like a character. We have to create that world. It may look like the world you live in, but it will have its differences.

This world is going to need its own look, sounds, and smells.

Even if you choose a setting similar to where you grew up, you will still add stores, houses, perhaps malls, a river, or stream or mountain that didn’t exist in your town.

The characters you create will need certain locations. You may need to create the places they work, the restaurants where they eat, or maybe a diner they visit every morning for breakfast. You may want to put a particular church or a hardware store.

You see, all these things have to be created and placed in this world you create.

This world will have a feel about it that is different from other places. Real or imagined.

This is the place your characters are going to come to life. The more you know about this world, the more you bring it to life for your reader. Even though you may not use everything you create for this new world in your story, by just knowing these things it puts more richness in your story.

Take it a few steps further, maybe you could develop a little history for this new world. What are its laws, rules, does it have folk lore?

The most important rule of all when creating your world, is show, don’t tell the reader. Open the door and bring them into this world you have created.

Some authors draw maps of their towns and surrounding country side and put them in their books. Having read some of those authors, like Lin Stepp, it made it much more interesting and just delivered me into the world she created. As I read some of the books from these authors I am able to picture the town, its post office and where the general store is . . . across the street, with its red roof and black writing on the front of the store. I’m able to follow the street a character takes to walk down to the bait shop and know that when the character is walking up Main Street they will run right into the courthouse. It creates for the reader a picture in their minds drawing them into the story feeling like they are there.

What all can you add to your new world you create for your story? What about the type of weather in that location? The flowers and fauna you find. Everything is usable in the world you create. The secret is to make this created world seem real.

Needless to say, however, you don’t want it to overshadow your story. So think about what type of world you want to create and how you can help your reader enter in to that world and be part of what you have created.

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