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.