“From the moment your character appears on page one and all the way to the end, they are your ambassador to your story, to your story world, and to everything that happens, also to what has happened, and what could happen.”
In this episode of How To Write The Future, “26. National Science Fiction Day, plus Fiction Writing Tips: World Building Through Action,” Beth Barany, creativity coach and science fiction and fantasy novelist, shares how writers can bring their story world alive through the character’s action and has a featured guest sharing 3 ways you can celebrate National Science Fiction Day.
National Science Fiction Day
Science Fiction culture
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ABOUT THE HOW TO WRITE THE FUTURE PODCAST
The How To Write The Future podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers.
Tips for fiction writers!
This podcast is for you if you have questions like:
This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.
ABOUT BETH BARANY
Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”
Contact Beth: https://writersfunzone.com/blog/podcast/#contact
EDITED WITH DESCRIPT: https://www.descript.com?lmref=_w1WCA
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26. Fiction Writing Tips: World Building Through Action
Beth: Are you stuck with your story and don't know how to get unstuck?
Are you a novelist who wishes to be more prolific?
Or maybe you've written that first draft and you just don't know how to make it better.
Then sign up today for a No Obligation Discovery Call with me Beth Barany, Creativity Coach and award-winning science fiction and fantasy novelist.
I look forward to seeing how I can help you.
So sign up today. The link is in the show notes. And now let's get on with the show.
Beth Barany: Hi writers, Beth Barany here with How to Write the Future podcast. I am a writing teacher of science fiction and fantasy writers here to support you in building positive, optimistic futures. Because when we vision what is possible, we help make it so. And we vision through our stories, and those stories go into the hearts and minds of our readers.
And then our readers can envision a better world. So how do you bring your story world alive?
From the moment your character appears on page one and all the way to the end, they are your ambassador to your story, to your story world, and to everything that happens, also to what has happened, and what could happen.
Beth: Today I have a featured guest. I'd like to introduce you to Kerry-Ann, my production assistant. Kerry-Ann has been working with me for the last six months, supporting my coaching and author marketing by helping me produce my podcast.
Kerry-Ann: Hey everyone. My name's Kerry-Ann. I'm a book blogger and I'm here to wish you a happy National Science Fiction Day. Today is for fans of science fiction to celebrate their favorite genre and was chosen as it's the official birthdate of science fiction writer Isaac Asamov. Without science fiction, our imaginations about what is possible in the future may not be as intriguing, which is why I believe it's such an important day for all to celebrate.
I have three ways to share with you on how you can celebrate National Science Fiction Day.
Number one: Watch your favorite sci-fi movie or TV show.
Number two: Read a sci-fi book. For instance, your podcast host Beth Barany has the Janey McCallister series, which is sci-fi mystery and features intrigue, space stations, and a futuristic vision of the Earth.
And number three: Dress up as your favorite sci-fi character. Thanks so much for listening.
Beth: Thanks Kerry-Ann. And now on with the show.
Beth Barany: World building is the process of creating your story world, and it's something that all writers do, whether they're writing science fiction or fantasy or historical or even contemporary. It uses the details of your world to reveal character, ratchet up the tension, and move the story forward. But first you need to know what your story world looks like from the perspective of your main characters.
It's their story after all, and the reader wants to experience the story world through their heart, mind, and body.
Many authors think they need to do extensive world building in the form of encyclopedic entries as of writing from the point of view of a passionate professor or expert, but actually you just need to know what your point of view character knows about their world.
One of the biggest mistakes I've made and I've seen other authors make is that they write as if their character was born on page one.
They're not, and well, unless you're writing a story like that, when a character enters your story, they have a history. They have an understanding of their world. They have an attitude, they have a worldview of what makes the world operate.
So not only do you need to know what your character wants, what drives them, you also need to know what is important to them in their environment and what isn't important, but deeply understood.
So how do you do this?
Beth Barany: You bring your story world alive by sharing sensory details of their surroundings and painting a picture, sight and sound and smell, and also touch and taste.
I do notice that writers rely too much on the visual, so be sure to evoke setting and world through sound and smell.
Smell, in fact, is considered to be the most primal sense as it's the one that scientists think evolved first. So from page one, your character is swimming through their environment like a fish, completely immersed full of thoughts and feelings about every little sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
So whether you're writing a story set in a contemporary well-known world, or a science fiction or fantasy world, or even historical, your characters are taking in information and making sense of it all the time.
Beth Barany: Readers need to know three things at the start of the story: who your character is, what they want and why, so that we can care, and where they are.
So how do you bring setting in and keep the story action moving forward?
You need to show where the character is right away as they do their action.
Here's an example from the first sentence in my book Into The Black in Book 1 of the Janey McCallister Mystery series about my space station investigator.
From her elevated vantage point on the stairs, Janey McCallister lead investigator of L'Etoile's Security team, scanned the crowd of gamblers for the elusive pick pocket, the thief who'd been striking every night for the last few weeks.
That's my first sentence.
So we know where she is. She's on the stairs. She's amongst gamblers, so that hints at a casino setting. We know what she wants. She's hunting for the elusive pick pocket, and we have a little sense of time that this has been going on for the last few weeks. We also know who she is, lead investigator of the security team.
So now we've situated her.
We know her goal, and we know also that there's been some challenge in getting this pick pocket.
That is an example of using setting and action in the same sentence.
Now we don't yet know anything much about the setting but ideally the sentence leads the readers to the next sentence and the next and so on. And by about word 50, I explain more of the setting. But we do know that the investigator is on the hunt and that she's up in an elevated position on the stairs. Now, if you can get us into the genre of your story right away, that's a plus.
You're promising the reader a type of experience in your story.
So what have I told you?
I've told you that she's an investigator on the hunt for a pick pocket. Right away we know we're in a some kind of mystery, which is exactly what I want people to know.
Now, sometimes you can have the character explain the setting without a lot of action, but you just take a moment to explain the setting and then the next sentence will probably have action.
So here's an example. This is an explanatory moment called exposition from Janet Ray Stevens, her book Beryl Blue, Time Cop.
"And now here I was in 1977, running after an overdue time tourist on a steamy hot July afternoon."
I really love the sentence. We know from the title that she is a time cop and we get a very tiny bit about where she is when she is and what she's doing, which hints at her goal here. She's in 1977. She's running after an overdue time tourist. In fact in the scene she is literally running after this person. And we get a sense of the setting -- a steamy hot July afternoon. And earlier in the scene, we know specifically where she is.
Here's another few sentences from the same scene from the same author, Janet Ray Stevens book, Beryl Blue, Time Cop, Book One. And here's how she weaves scene and action together.
"I towed him away from the beach toward the bustling downtown, looking for an alley. He gazed wistfully at the boat-sized cars clogging the street, the people dressed in colors that would make Joseph's Technicolor Dreamcoat look subdued, and the stores advertising wares still made in the USA."
So that's two sentences from Janet Ray Stevens book.
I love this little combination here.
We have an action: she's towing him away from the beach toward a bustling downtown.
What is her goal in the moment? She's looking for an alley.
We have the secondary character doing something that allows the point of view character to describe boat-sized cars, hogging, clogging, the street people dressed in colors, stores advertising wears still made in the USA, hinting that it's different where she is from.
And I love this: "the people dressed in colors that would make Joseph's Technical Dreamcoat look subdued."
So we have a sense of like outlandish, outrageous colors. Remember, it's 1977.
Not only do we have a description of the setting, we have a description filtered through our point of view character's perspective.
She's a time cop, which hints that she's from the future, and she is. She jumps from 2130. So she has an entirely different perspective of life from that time, which is only hinted at here. So this setting could be described completely differently if it was written from another character's point of view.
So we have action, we have description, and we have description filtered through the narrator's, through the main character's perspective.
See how you can do this in your story. How can you design descriptive information from the perspective of your character that relates to their goal and their past, and moves the story forward because you're including action?
Write long and prosper.
Beth: Write long and prosper.
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