World building may not seem that important on the surface, especially if your piece takes place in our reality. If it doesn’t contribute to the plot or the character arc, then it must not be essential, right?
Wrong. Your world is what grounds the plot. It adds life to the story. It creates that longing we all have to be in this world, fantastical or real. Whether you’re writing the next Harry Potter or becoming the next John Green, your world is what gives your novel that next-level appreciation.
The general world doesn’t have to be completely and utterly detailed. You don’t need to know the infrastructure, the population, and the hierarchy of every single town. If you want to make this world flawless and go in-depth into the coinage and political status, then go wild. But for those of you who don’t have the time to develop three different religions practiced in the world, then you don’t have to. You can make a believable world through smaller details.
The physical setting is always the easiest. The landscape can be developed through simple imagery. Be sure to develop the scene through all the senses, but the visual scape is most important. Describe the greenery, the architecture, the color-scheme. Give the major details, then enough smaller details to make it unique.
But the physical setting isn’t all you need to flesh out your world. A world with just the main characters feels so barren. Adding in those background characters allow for the scene to be more animated. Pick out specific people in the crowd for off-handed details that help develop the culture. What are they eating? Are they playing a game specific to the region? Is there a specific greeting done by the locals? Let the culture appear through the people and their interactions.
And, finally, the setting should have a history. The world went on before the plot. Give evidence of previous life. In that high-school drama, flesh out the graffiti in the bathroom stalls and on the desks. Construction around the family-run restaurant being re-purposed for a McDonald's. The scratched keyhole from years of missing the slot. This not only helps to give culture, but also gives the physical landscape life.
Your imagery of your setting will get you halfway there. But you need to give your world energy and vitality. Never forget that life goes on outside of the plot, and that the plot affects life outside of your main characters. Let this be seen to your readers through those minor details about the landscape, the off-handed mentions of the crowd. This will allow your audience to be drawn in over and over again to the world you craft.
Do you have specific questions about setting that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Comments posted after 11/20 may not be included.
Questions from "Dialogue":
What do you recommend for writing dialogue for characters with a specific dialect? How do you portray that dialect without making the dialogue too confusing?
The first thing to consider is what kind of dialect the character has. Is it a well-known dialect in real life? A made-up one crafted for the story? Depending on your answer, you may need to define the rules in terms of inflection, pronunciation, etc. before you begin crafting your dialogue. Once you understand the rules, go through writing the dialogue as if there is no dialect. You want to make sure your dialogue is still forwarding the plot and not just an excuse to show off your fancy foreign accents. It should feel like an authentic tone suitable for the character. Apostrophes are your friend! A good example to look into is the dialogue by Hagrid from the Harry Potter novels.
If you’re worried about making the dialogue confusing and you have a made-up accent, consider whether there are rules for the dialect that could be removed to simplify things. Describing the accent before the character starts speaking in narration also does a lot in terms of getting the reader in the mindset of the dialect. When rewriting, ask others to read specific portions of the dialogue for comprehension, and take their feedback into account. If all else fails, consider whether the dialect is truly necessary to the story.
Dialogue is one of the biggest indicators of the separation between the amateur and professional writer. Too often in Wattpad serials or self-published novels, you’ll find numerous monologues where characters go on and on, revealing their deepest, most personal emotions to everyone in the entire world. It’s easy for anyone to look at these books, snicker to themselves, and snarkily say, “That’s not how people really talk.” But in order to find the root of the problem, you have to consider, “How do people really talk?”, and, more importantly, “How do characters really talk?”
This distinction is incredibly important. People in books and movies and TV shows don’t talk like everyday humans. Conversations in the real world often repeat, oversimplify, and wind like a backroad going nowhere. There are very few instances in life where these moments have weight and purpose. In stories, everything the characters say must have both weight and purpose.
Novel dialogue has a somewhat similar purpose to film dialogue. An easy way to think of dialogue initially is to consider it in the context of a scene. In scenes, there are two ways to forward the pacing: action and dialogue. Paired together, they take the scene, and the novel as a whole, from one point to another, whether positive or negative.
One of the best ways to enhance dialogue is to consider how different characters react to the same situation. Character traits always impact their word choice; you find it in the difference between someone saying the party is “huge” and someone saying the party is “overstuffed”.
What characters don’t say is more important than what they do say. When someone is having a bad day in a movie and their parents ask, “How was your day,” most of the time they won’t say, “Well, Mom, my girlfriend dumped me for my best friend, I flunked my geometry exam, the lasagna gave me food poisoning, and I stepped in dog crap on the way home, so all and all it’s been a pretty dreadful thirteen hours.” Instead, they’ll say something like, “I don’t want to talk about it,” or, “Same old, same old,” or simply, “It was fine.” It seems corny, but it’s true: less is often more when it comes to dialogue. Only in moments of extreme, well-earned catharsis will a character ever reveal their true emotions fully, but the reader can often infer how they feel through a combination of their actions and inner thoughts.
In short, dialogue is one of the most complicated and fascinating aspects of a novel. It requires more thought than many realize at first, and often takes draft after draft to refine and perfect. When done wrong, it takes less than a second to break immersion. When done right, however, it makes your world and your story more believable than ever, and proves to your readers that they are in capable hands.
Do you have specific questions about dialogue that weren't answered in this section? Leave a comment down below and the author of this post will answer it when our next entry is posted. Note: Comments posted after 11/12 may not be included.
Questions from "Character Part 2":
What is the best way to create an antagonist that is an understandable character yet also an intimidating force?
Something to keep in mind for this is a sympathetic character vs. an empathetic character. A sympathetic character is one you believe is truly in the right, an empathetic character is one where you can understand how they got to that point. Think Thanos: you can understand his fears of overpopulation and how he came to the conclusion that limiting every population will protect the ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean you believe his execution is the right way to go about it.
Give your antagonist empathetic motivations. Then give them flawed executions. Their goals and motivations should lie in the “right,” like fighting for a loved one or wanting to improve society. And then have their trek to their goals dive down the more evil path: corruption, manipulation, violence, doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal.
How can I make a compelling redemption arc with my antagonist/flawed character without throwing away all the work I did to make them seem evil/very human?
Redemption arcs can’t happen overnight. They take time, they take effort. Characters with flawed outlooks have to completely rearrange their ideals in order to reach redemption.
Something has to first trigger their desire to be redeemed. Maybe someone near them gets hurt, or they have a challenge to their ideals that doesn’t match what they earlier believed. From there, they have to start second-guessing their actions. Were they in the right? What did they do wrong? What is right? Chances are the redeemed character will have a guide, someone to help them along their arc. It would be easy to make the redeemed character reliant on this guide, but there’s always a better way. Small actions get corrected, so the character starts to make their own “correct” decisions. Corrections get larger and larger scale until the climax of the arc arrives. Some big choice between good and evil, and they choose good. The stakes don’t have to be life or death, but they should be high.
As for retaining the evil aspect - they’ll still have to suffer the consequences of their actions. The rest of the world didn’t correct itself from a redemption arc. Even if a character changes, that doesn’t mean their characterization was for naught. Let that characterization have an effect on a wide scale.