Friday, November 14, 2008

World Building

Lots of talk about this lately, what with the amount of paranormals, and sci fi romances out there. And (because I can be slow) it’s taken me a while to really understand what this means.

JR Ward said she cemented the rules of her world really early on in her Brotherhood series, knew what she could and couldn’t do, and you know, I really bought in to her world.
Her characters seemed to be true to her world, which made me believe it more.

I know that’s a cryptic statement, and the best way I can explain is using Historical romance. There is occasionally talk of world building in Historicals, but mostly it comes across as historical details and getting them right. And sure, don’t have your character flip a light switch in the regency period.
For me lately, it’s become less about the details and more about how the characters interact in their environment.

For example, a regency romance, where the focus is often on the heroine, a lovely young woman from a good family making a good match. And then in the course of the book, gives up her virginity without any real thought, for either herself, or her family.
This happens a lot and usually drives me nuts. For me, it’s often a case of the author setting the rules of their world, and then abandoning them to drive the story forward.

If the author started by creating a world of upper, upper class where money and position drove the marriage process and affairs were ignored, then I’d buy into the above scenario, which for the regency period isn’t historically inaccurate. (really awkward sentence, but can’t think of a better one, sorry)

Just something that’s been top of mind for me. My heroine is a young woman from an impoverished family, not hoping to make a good match and I’m trying to think how she feels about a pre-marital affair. And I’m setting rules for my world, that I’m hoping will take me through 5 books. I know if I screw it up now, I’ll end up paying down the road. (no pressure)

And on a completely side note: some amazing books out there. If we haven’t raved enough about Sherry Thomas, well here’s more. Read her second book, Delicious and it’s so good. And it’s a lesson in world building in a historical and characters staying true to their world.


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Sinead. To bring up another example in historical romance: One thing I really liked in Elizabeth Hoyt's The Leopard Prince was the way she set up the heroine's family (her world) in such a way that you could understand why the heroine would risk having an affair with a man she thought was the gameskeeper. The reaction of her family to this affair was so unexpected I believed it, (if that makes any sense), and I also believed the heroine knew how her brothers and aunt would react, even if I hadn't seen it coming. Loved the scenes with her aunt offering advice on how to handle her lower-class lover as casually as if she were teaching her how to hold a tea cup.
Other writers just toss characters like that together because "they're hot for each other" and, well, because it's a romance so who cares. I think readers let this kind of thing slide because they expect it in this genre, but in the best books in the genre, the writer makes the reader believe the H&H's actions make sense in their world, not just in Historical Romance Land.

Kimber Chin said...

I completely agree.

Great romances show you how the hero/heroine's history has set them up to be 'perfect' for each other.

I don't want easily replaceable love interests (any Duke will do). I like to think 'there could be no other.' That gives me hope the relationship will last.

I find as I write, I get better at that. Still have a ways to go though (grinning)

Amy Ruttan said...

Exactly Sinead. That's why I'm having a hard time with Regencies in particular.

To shame or dishonor your family was social death in that time period.

For example Pride and Prejudice when Lydia ran of with Wickham and Elizabeth Bennet says (in respect to Mr. Darcy) "I shall never see him again."

Whereas the Georgian period it was all about pleasure and there was a lot of cuckolding going on.

I'm going through a final read through a manuscript before I send it off to the editor and it's set in late Victorian.

Yes, my heroine is having an affair, her husband (who is gay) likes the idea as he can't give her what she wants, and though she loves the man she's having an affair with she gets very angry at him if he shows affection to her in public, thus snubbing her husband in public.

It's tricky. LOL.

It's not only the historical accuracy of the time period, but we need to know that character fits that time and is acting according to his/her surroundings.

Molly O'Keefe said...

How they act in thier world...good freaking point!!!

Funny, all those ruined women in romanceland.

Amy's having a baby? What? Is this true? Amy??!!

Amy Ruttan said...

Yeah it's true Molly. LOL. Total accident. hehehe.

Megan Frampton said...

Excellent post, I wrestle with the same ideas in my own writing. I mean, we want the nasty, but then our heroines are feckless sluts, right?

So the fine line is figuring out how to properly world-build so their behavior is heroic and fun.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Sinead is a feckless slut.

And clearly Amy...

I think that's one of the ways historicals have been changed as they come back -- they are staying true to the times perhaps a bit better.

Amy Ruttan said...

Yeah I'm feckless! hehehehe

Abby said...

Not just social death, but disease and pregnancy as well. Historians can blab all they want about how condoms have been around since the Egyptians, but we all know that if a Regency miss was having an affair, she was agreeing to completely unprotected sex. That wouldn't be a decision she would take lightly.

My heroines have sex, but (married or not) only when they are enough in love that they are willing to risk having a child. That's how I've dealt with it so far. It works because it makes the stakes really, really high, which is what we all want.

It's why you see all these contrived "she must have a child by x date in order to inherit" plots, lol. She just HAS to jump into bed!

Sinead M said...

Finally, after all these years and a lot of hard work, I`m a feckless slut.
Maureen, totally forgot about Elizabeth Hoyt, but another great example of an author who really imbeds her heroines in the time frame and the world they inherit.
It`s a tricky thing in historicals, creating a scenario for a romance that allows the hero and heroine to have sex in a way appropriate to the time frame and also to the story.
Megan and Abby, so great to hear from my NJ pals who also write historicals...

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