I was going to start off talking about how we can work the culture of our worlds into our stories. But then I realized that I should probably start off with the WHY of it all.
wasn’t really aware, as a reader, that there was such a thing as
“culture”, or maybe another phrase could be “world building”. I knew
some worlds worked better then others, were more believable...long
before I understood what it was to Build a culture, literally from the
ground up. Even certain writers have worlds they seem to understand, or
maybe enjoy building, better then others.
example. Anne McCaffery does an AMAZING job building Pern. Not so great
with her Petabe world. It’s almost as though the writer herself doesn’t
quite buy it. Or. Maybe it’s a different problem altogether. Maybe the
writer just didn’t take the time to clue us in to the rules. She left us
out in the cold. She assumed we understood what was going on, when in
fact, we didn’t...and therefore, her world felt flat, one dimensional,
and ultimately boring.
Butcher is great at world building and revealing. He throws us in head
first, tumbles us around for a bit, then just when we’re starting to
wonder what the hell is going on here, brings us up for air and gives us
a few rules and regulations. Then throws another monster at us. Good
started because I read a very brief article months ago in Writer’s
Digest (I believe) about the assumptions that a reader will bring to
your story. It glanced briefly at how if, for example, you have a
pregnant woman, the majority of your readers will assume that woman has a
husband. Think about that. We are so ingrained to think that A) A woman
MUST be married to get pregnant. B) A woman who is pregnant must have a
Husband. (Which isn’t QUITE the same thing as A.) Interesting, don’t you
common assumption? All worlds are Male Dominated. Hmm. Really? Are
they? That’s what a reader assumes, unless otherwise informed. And not
only that, if you want a female dominant world, good luck! For this one,
you have to really drive the issue home. Apparently a female dominant
world is a hard plot point for a reader to buy.
to build a world you have to, as the writer, understand that the reader
knows nothing about your world. Nothing. That’s a very intimidating
word. They THINK they know stuff about your world. But do they? Are you
ok letting the reader imagine, for themselves, what type of clothing
your people wear? Is it important to the story? A savvy reader can glean
information about clothing type by the type of story they’re reading,
absolutely. But are you ok with this? If not, you have to work this into
your story somehow.
readers assumptions are nothing to take lightly. But don’t let them get
in your head. It’s all about building your world from the ground up.
It’s the details. Have you ever gone to visit another state, or country,
and thought you were on another planet? That’s the feeling you want to
hold on to. That’s how your readers SHOULD feel. You Don’t want them to
know, for a little while anyway. You want to explain it to them. You
want to control what they know and don’t know. You want them to wonder
about every little detail and IS it important. Are the beads he just
mentioned in that guy’s hair something that I have to keep track of? Or
are they just a costume detail? It’s hard getting the balance right. Not
doing the ‘info dump’ of old, yet keeping the reader from filling in
the blanks on their own.
are some assumptions that readers, cp’s, random people, have made about
your writing/story? Did it change how you approached your craft? Your
story? Were you surprised?