Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Full Picture

Revising "A Mage's Power"  reminds of the importance of creating the Full Picture. What the characters are saying and doing and the place they're doing it all in. The details that give life to words. My most common additions during the revision process is just this; painting the picture. Whether one writes fantasy, science fiction or realistic fiction, one should not pass up a chance for world building. This is the tapestry that the story is written on. A reader deserves no less than the full picture.

The setting where the events take place in shapes the events. The same battle would play out differently in a swamp, a farmer's field, or a building. Using the unique properties of these areas builds the world and shape the battle. In doing so you will create a fuller picture for the reader.

If the enviorment can develop the world then so can the weather. Adding clouds or rain or regular winds or a bright sun can make the world seem more alive. It can also develop your characters. If a girl is humming as she walks and is caught in a downpour but continues humming nonetheless, then the author has shown she is endlessly upbeat. Continuing this, if she's meeting a guyfriend the author can show a chivalric streak by having him give her his jacket or demonstrate a penchant for being prepared by offering her a second umbrella.

On a more personal level, add an iconic item or a character tic to your characters. For instance, the girl in the above example could carry a book everywhere or the guy could snap his fingers when bored.

Nobody likes floating heads and these sorts of things can break up dialogue. Items found in one place or another can add atmosphere or advance the plot. Gestures can underscore or alter the meaning of spoken words.

To illustrate I'll provide an example from "A Mage's Power". This right here is an early draft of Eric going to a shaman's tent.

"The mage in charge of healing lived in a spacious tent decorated with paintings of the sun and the moon. An old human woman greeted them warmly as they entered."

This tells the reader what happened and provides a few details but doesn't paint the 'full picture'. The shaman herself is merely 'old' and 'human' which can describe any number of characters. This next bit is the most recent revision.

A spacious tent decorated with the sun and the moon. Ethereal enforcers circled the sun; glowing tricksters jumped over the moon. A majestic griffin painting guarded the entrance flap. It was pushed aside by an old human woman with three eyes and fly wings poking out the bottom of her embroidered cloak.
Doesn't provide a fuller picture of the shaman's tent and the shaman herself? It also connects the shaman to the broader tapestry of the story itself. Tricksters and enforcers are mentioned elsewhere before and after this scene; tricksters especially often appear in the setting and in-universe culture. Griffin imagery plays a similar role and becomes more important as the story progresses. As for the human's odd features, the fact that they are not particularly odd in this setting is a reoccurring plot point considering my protagonist is from another world.

For more articles on world building see
To Build World Think About Ants and World Of Monsters

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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