When I was little, I spent most of my summers with my grandparents. Those days meant a lot of new opportunities for me, including my first experience with community theater. With roles on stage and off, I soon learned I preferred to be behind the scenes making things even better for the audience.
Looking back, I think this is where I learned core lessons about world building. Not that I had any idea that’s what I was learning. Whatever we put on the stage was there to set the mood for the audience.
Sure we reused props and costumes but they always were altered to be in tune with the particular play or musical. Not just with the time period of the setting, but with the feeling we wanted to convey to the audience.
Every item on stage needed to support the actions and dialogue of the actors.
World building for a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy novel – or any genre – can be as unique and varied as authors themselves, but this core truth about stage setting holds true for books too.
In a book the props used by the actors and the costumes they wear rely on the author’s words and phrases to create the right imagery. Vocabulary, voice, and tone develop and infuse the mood of each scene for your reader, enriching the whole experience. The items you focus your description on allow the reader to escape into and explore the world you created for your characters.
It’s important to keep the reader’s ‘eye’ on what matters within the setting so they feel connected to the character’s journey through the story. A lengthy description of a room or dress might be fun to write, but you don’t want it to take away from your story’s momentum. (unless you’re working on a design book).
Think about what you see in both the foreground and background of a set in movies and on television. The props are there to clue the viewer to the situation, offer characterization cues, and sometimes even become an inside joke among fans.
Be sure you’re giving your readers the details they need to enjoy the imagery and become life-long fans.
Live the adventure!