Contemporary World Building

This week the Muses topic is "World Building." I don't write books with deadly skies, or historical castles, or magical beaches with doors to the underworld or time robbers --so world building to me is a bit different. The world of my books is the everyday world around me, so making it come alive and become "real" to readers is an even bigger challenge sometimes. (Ok, I know some of the Muses are going to disagree with me on that one). I have to admit, though, that part of the creating is the fun part for me. It's all in the quirky, specific details. And I LOVE quirky - both in setting description and in character.

Here's a few teasers from SKINNY to illustrate my point:
We pass the Walmart on the right and then McKenzie’s BarBQ on the left. It doesn’t take long to get anywhere in this town. An hour north of Houston, Huntsville sits on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and has some odd extremes when it comes to attractions. Visitors can go to the Texas Prison Museum and see “Old Sparky,” the electric chair that killed 361 condemned criminals over forty years of service, or head south of town to view the world’s tallest statue of an American hero — Sam Houston. Rat’s dad is a ranger for the Sam Houston Park. His mom, an elementary school teacher, was my mom’s best friend from the moment we moved in next door to them. I still see the grief in Mrs. Wilson’s eyes when she looks at me...We pass Tinsley’s Fried Chicken with the big sign outside that reads, Try Our Big, Juicy Breasts.

“They really should change that sign,” I say.

And another example:
We slowly pass a yellow house on the corner with overgrown dandelions and a FOR SALE sign in the front yard. It belonged to the Cat Lady, Mrs. Rattenborg. They found her two weeks after she slipped in the bath and died from hitting her head on the Siamese-cat-shaped soap dish. The animal control people were taking crates of cats away for days. I think the moral of the story is, if you’re going to wind up in life with only cats for friends you should teach them to dial 911.

And a final example:
Charlotte comes in from the backyard carrying a freshly cut bouquet of yellow roses from the yard. Carefully slicing each stem off at the perfect angle, she arranges them symmetrically into a vase, equal spaces apart. Charlotte likes things orderly. Even flowers. The three different bottles of perfume she keeps on the top of her dresser are exactly lined up, even spaces apart, right next to the wooden plaque that reads, GOD ISN’T FINISHED WITH ME YET. There’s also a pyramid of large pink Velcro rollers on the dresser top, perfectly stacked, that has something to do with her daily hair routine, but I haven’t quite figured that out yet.

So what do you add to your world to make it "quirky" and real?


Well I don't write, so I don't have specifics. But I'm an avid fan of excellent world building. I find it so completely necessary. Just like I think a map is necessary in a fantasy novel. It's all in the details. The specifics of the surroundings. If I can clearly picture it, then it's a winner. I've noticed, the weather and smells are a huge help. Food as well. Elaboration is key.

When's SKINNY coming out? Do I really have to wait until next autumn?

In my writing, I try to see the details through the main character's perspective (as you've done above, esp. with her thinking they should change the breast sign) because that's what makes the details feel real to me. Otherwise, they're just random pieces of my imagination and may not have much to do with the story.

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