A few weeks ago I read Rebecca’s first book, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter ( you can find my review here) and I really liked the world she created! She is now striking again with the second book in the series, Wayfarer(releasing June 22, 2010). She very nicely accepted to tell us a bit more about the art of worldbuilding!
Worldbuilding: It's not just for high fantasy anymore. In fact, it never has been.
What do I mean by that? Well, when most people think about worldbuilding, they imagine the creation of some fantastic imaginary realm, far removed from our own experience. Tolkien was the master worldbuilder in his construction of Middle-Earth, for instance; he even invented whole new languages for his characters to speak. But it's not just epic fantasy authors who need to think about worldbuilding. It's important for urban and contemporary authors, too.
Yes, most urban fantasy takes place in the big cities of North America, and most readers know what that setting is like. There isn't the same need to invent an elaborate background for the story, not when we've all seen New York City a thousand times on TV. But still, the idea of urban fantasy depends on the existence of another world or society running parallel to or just beneath the surface of our own -- and that's where worldbuilding comes in, to develop that idea and make it seem just as plausible to the reader as the ordinary world they see every day.
When I wrote my debut novel, Spell Hunter (a.k.a. Knife). I didn't realize the importance of worldbuilding. I imagined that just by describing a five-hundred-year-old oak tree in the modern English countryside and populating it with small, winged faeries who had lost their magic and had to struggle to survive, that was enough. But as an agent who read an early draft of the book pointed out, the faery society didn't ring true, and the Oakenfolk's lives had a flimsy, artificial feel to them. There was no real sense of how these faeries were different from humans other than size and wings, and no clear picture of how their lives were different from those of the average human either. There was nothing special or compelling about the faeries' world, nothing to surprise the reader or capture their attention. It was all on the surface. I hadn't done my worldbuilding.
What I needed to do was to carefully think through the consequences of who the Oakenfolk were, and what I'd done to them by cutting them off from their magic and from the outside world. How would their society have developed over the past two hundred years? How did the faeries interact with each other? What would their customs be? What rules would they live by? What did they eat, how did they get their food, where did their clothes come from and how did they get the materials they needed to survive? How would their rapidly dwindling population -- and the total absence of males from their society -- have affected them?
On the surface those might seem like dull research questions, but thinking about those issues and working the answers into my story gave Spell Hunter a depth and solidity that it had never had before. Once I realized that the faeries had little experience of family or friendship, let alone love, it made it much more challenging to write the interactions between them, but it also made the friendship that developed between my faery heroine and the teenaged human boy she meets in the story much more compelling by contrast. Similarly, once I understood that the Oakenfolk bargain for everything, I could see how profoundly my heroine Knife would be shaken and moved when my hero gave her a gift with no strings attached. And once I'd established those things, there was no need to convince the reader that faeries and humans are different, because it was evident right from the start.
By the time I wrote my second book Wayfarer (a.k.a. Rebel), I was comfortable and familiar with the faery world I'd built -- but I still had more worldbuilding to do. Because now it wasn't enough to stay in the Oak; I had to take my heroine out of it and throw her into a modern urban landscape -- specifically, modern London. I had to create a second faery society for her to interact with, one that had developed in very different ways from her own, and show how Linden's rural, insular upbringing as one of the Oakenfolk would clash with the city faeries' sophisticated and ruthless ways -- while at the same time exposing Linden to the second culture shock of being surrounded by humans and their technology, and trying to figure out how it all worked.
That's worldbuilding. Not inventing a new planet, but describing and portraying the unique world of culture and experience and expectation in which your individual characters live. Making it understandable and accessible to the reader, but also highlighting the specific, compelling ways in which your vampire or werewolf or faery society is different from what we ordinary humans know. Or, to turn the idea on its head as I've done in Wayfarer, showing how the ordinary human world we take for granted might seem alien and overwhelming to a faery girl who's never seen it before.
So whether a book is set in some far-off world or the heart of New York City, the back of an English garden or a country full of talking animals at the back of a magical wardrobe, worldbuilding is an essential discipline for every writer -- and part of the pleasure that every reader takes in a well-written story.
Thank you very much Rebecca for sharing this fantastic info with us! It was nice to know how you created such unique world and I’m sure all the aspiring authors out there we be thrilled!
Now Because Rebecca and Harper Collins are fantastic, we have one copy of Wayfarer to give away to one lucky reader!
Giveaway open to US Only!
To enter just FILL THE FORM
No extra entries awarded, but I’m sure Rebecca would be thrilled to hear your comments!
Ends July 4th, 2010.