Monday, October 17, 2016

World Building For All Genres Part 3 Janet Lane Walters #characters #writing #language #etymology

Bast's Warrior (An Alternate Egypt Book 1)

The next area of World building to consider is Characters. There are a number of areas where people help weave the world web.

Clothing is a must. In contemporary stories all manner of places and pictures can help clothe your characters and point to their career, their status in life and where they life. For historical characters there are costume books. If paranormal is your bent, imagination can take over. You can also adapt clothing from pictures of books to dress your people.

Language is important in world building. In paranormal stories finding words that give an other world flavor can be difficult as well as confusing. I’ve read some books with glossaries but constantly turning pages to decipher meaning can turn a reader to a different book. Also using too many strange words can turn prose into gibberish. What you need to do is find words that hint to what the characters are tasting, seeing, hearing, touching and smelling.

If you say. “He raised a con of lug and sipped, the reader’s brow will furrow. But if you say He raised a mug of kafa, the reader will think coffee.

I have three reference books I use. One is a seven language dictionary and the other is an etymology. They have helped me find the words I need. When writing the Egypt books I found an encyclopedia of terms that helped there. The third book is Orson Scott Card’s How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Great world building chapter.

For historical stories the wrong word can jolt the reader out of the story, Also too much usage of the right words such as dialect can send a reader searching for another book. Sometimes the word can be right but it seems too modern to the reader. Take pothole. There have been potholes that were called just that during historical periods as well as today. A friend had to change pothole in her book because an editor felt the word was modern. Also remember when you’re searching for a word to use is that words can change meaning.

In contemporary stories language plays a role in creating the dream. Every career choice, region of the country have specific words. There’s argot, cant, slang whatever you choose to call these expressions, using one of these words can point to a specific area or career.

For example, I’m from Pittsburgh. When company’s coming I’m apt to red up the house rather than clean.

If a character says “Heart attack:” we might think lay person but if "Cardiac arrest,” is used we think of medical personnel.

He aimed his piece, or his gat or his gun or his Glock. Those words can change an opinion of a character and of the world he or she inhabits.

One good thing about writing a contemporary story is there are experts to interview who can provide language and information to help build your world. These people are almost always happy to talk to a writer.

Actually when doing an interview I had an interesting event. How I was nearly arrested for murder.

I needed to speak to a policeman to learn when I could schedule a murder victim’s funeral as this led to the climax of the story. My daughter had a friend from school who became a policeman. He had been at the house many times and was semi-adopted into the family. I called his off-duty phone and left a message for him to call me back.

A few hours later he returned the call. “What’s wrong? What can I do?” he asked.

“It’s about this woman I just murdered. How long before she can be buried.”

Then I heard. “No, Guys settle. She’s a writer.” There was a pause. Then he said, “Ma, I’m at the station. You’re on speaker.”