Using Our History in World Building

World Building: Can we use history in paranormal books

What makes the setting of a story so unique?

The setting of your novel is one of the most obvious parts of the book. It plays a huge part in the plot, in defining our characters as well. A story with no setting is rather flat,  leaves me wondering what’s missing. There is so much detail, so many layers of depth in creating your world. It is a big part of what, I as a reader, fall into. I want to be there in the moment, in the location, the very fabric of the story. World building is as vital to a good book as the characters I’m reading about.

Building the setting can be easy or difficult, and for me, using historical time periods to build a world is in many ways harder than creating a fantasy world for my paranormal romances.

What do you mean? You ask.

The answer is complex in its simplicity. We as a global culture can look up a historical tidbit using the means available to us such as internet, libraries, universities, and so forth. If I build a world using details from say 10th century England in a story set in 15th century Russia, as a lover of Historicals, you could call bulls**t because its easy enough to look up those details. Does it happen every day, no. But its a possibility as an author, I am aware of and understand and respec. As a reader of historical romance myself, and a huge history buff, you can be darn sure I’m going to sit back and go “Okay that’s not in the time period“. The very nature of a fact-check, for me, means I want to ensure there is no change of having such a huge and obvious error.

The misrepresentation of history is, I think, the hardest part of actually building a world based on our past. It is also the easiest. The same options available to the reader are available to me as an author. Using the resources available to me, means before I sit down to write, my notebook comes out and I’m jotting down questions and ideas and checking and rechecking to be sure I have the accuracy I need.

How does that fit into writing other genres?

When we write in other genres such as Paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, what is the first thing we do? We set out to build a world the reader can sink into. A world full of details about culture, about politics, and laws. Our ability to connect reader to the world of the story is as important as characters they can relate to, goals, motivations, challenges the character’s face. If you have a great story idea, fantastic, 3 dimensional characters, a killer plot…and no recognizable setting, you may find readers put off your book.

You build your world according to examples you know, weave in details you may not even be aware are there all with a mind on how to make the reader identify the world you’ve created. Tiny threads of obvious things such as politics, kings, queens, good, bad, justice, all bleed into the world and give it dimensions. Having a great example you can go back and forth with is such a huge help. Which is not to say the paranormal world you build is going to be a carbon copy of the world you live in, it isn’t.

Our history, our culture are simply jumping off points for us to create a setting we know people are going to love.  Trivia and tidbits from cultures around our world can play into the other genres simply because they give us an idea we can run with our and get truly creative. Understanding what makes a world so important is the first step into building that world.  When we look at history, we get a slightly skewed perspective since history is often written by the winner in a conflict. Yet there are really good clues within the pages of our past which we can use to be successful in building our setting for one book or twenty.

We can see the varying means of ruling a world, laws, cultural aspects. Even the languages used since we began to use them can aide us in creating a culture our readers can fall in love with and keep coming back for more.


What define’s Success

What is success?

Is it quantifiable? Or is it an elusive phantom you hunt for but don’t truly believe is real?

As an author, how do we define our successes? In the number of sales? Perhaps its in reviews? Or the steady increase in our royalty cheques? Or do we look beyond the obvious and dig down to uncover what it means to each of us as an individual? Sales, reviews, royalty increases, are all quantified means to check the success box but what if you’re a new author and struggling? What if you don’t have a marketing background, or not comfortable with promoting your work? Then how can we look to these examples as success when we may not have many sales, or have to claw our way to the front of the list to get a review.

Recently, I was reading through some discussion on social media where new authors were asking for a definition of success and it made me think.  Some of the authors were just getting started and feeling as though they were failing because they didn’t have a large number of followers, or beta readers, or people lined up to buy an advanced copy. It really hit home because I can understand how they think. I read the posts and saw myself.

It made me question my own perceptions of where I am in my career. How would an outsider look at my writing career? Would they judge me to be a success by the number of books I have out, or perhaps they’d look at me and see me as a failure because I am not graced with a large number of reviews? I do not have a large, obvious following of fans, but the ones I have are loyal and are appreciated.

On a personal level, coming to terms with how I see my successes, my failures is part of the journey.

So it made sense for me to sit down and say to myself, what makes me feel as though I am a success? What are my failures? How do I look beyond my own ideas and see the honest reflection of success, of what needs to be improved? Can we be honest with ourselves as we look at what is laid out before us. To truly understand what our definition of success is we have to be prepared to throw away the rose colored glasses and really look at our goals, our dreams, and most importantly our dedication to overcoming those challenges we face.

How do I see my career? This is the huge question which makes you and I cringe. What I see in my career has a lot of positives, and there is room for personal growth, for connecting with other authors, networking to gain the exposure I need. I don’t mean flood others with the typical “Buy my books.” but rather, engage with other authors, with readers to ensure those who read the genres I write get a chance to see my work and perhaps turn the click into a buy.

As an author, it is imperative, you understand the reality. Yes, we can make a living with our writing. Hard work, dedication, understanding your reader base, and being seen are all key ingredients in ensuring success. But, are we all going to be the next J.K. Rawling? Steven King? It is not likely, but it is an admirable goal to set for ourselves.

A dream is only a goal we have yet to reach!

Literary Pilgrimages

What was once simple, has become a more complex, in depth experience for an author. At one point going to see what held a unique, or special meaning to the author was what defined a literary pilgrimage. What is a pilgrimage? By definition is is a journey or search for moral or spiritual significance. Often it is a physical journey, yet there are ones which take place withing a person’s heart. Each must decide for themselves what they are seeking, where they are meant to be.

For some authors, their journey may not even mean leaving the comfort of their home. For me, its about rediscovering the link between the love of reading and the love of writing Its a journey of renewal, of spiritual, creative, and emotional growth. Its not always an easy thing to do. Personal commitments, family, day jobs, and obstacles put in place by the author can derail their journey.

Understanding the need for the pilgrimages, I believe is the first step. Why would one need to take that first step? I can’t answer the question beyond my own experience. My pilgrimage started because I felt compelled to reconnect with my writing. I had lost touch with it due to events and stresses which were beyond my control, and like most people I focused on my family, on the well being of others before myself. This lead me to turn from the part of my soul which is fed by writing.  I needed to recharge my spiritual batteries by allowing myself to rekindle my love of writing.

The first difficult step in the journey makes each following step more powerful, more empowering. You have to understand and accept you are meant to be challenged, to put your energy into your search for what is significant. Its designed to make you look beyond the lies we tell ourselves, the masks we wear, and the ruts we live within to dig down to the truth in our souls.

As an experience, a literary pilgrimage is both painful and exhilarating. It makes you really look at what you feel, what your heart is telling you. It is a complex and lengthy process designed to break through the barriers we erect. Pilgrimages, are something we as authors, as humans, need in our lives. They are inherently challenging, and yet they are spiritual, empowering, and really as a means of self-awareness are an invaluable journey.