Oh no. That was my first response when I read the topic question for our newest writing blog chain over at H.L. Dyer's Weblog. Oh no, was followed by some head scratching, and then as no brilliant ideas came to me - there was only dread. As if things couldn't get worse Michelle McLean, the next person on the chain, wrote an enthusiastic and well thought out response to the question.
And now it is my turn. Oh no.
What is this question that has been causing me such pains? Well, here it is:
How do you as an author choose or create your story-world and give that setting authenticity?
Now don't get me wrong I am not saying that this isn't a great question for writers to discuss, or that I am uninterested in the answers. No, no, no. My problem is that I, as a writer, should be able to answer that question... and I cannot.
This is not to say that my stories all take place on a generic black box stage, devoid of anything that might give some clue as to time or place. Quite the contrary. In fact my characters are often one place or another, or in transit to someplace else, until they get where they are going.
And that wonderfully vague sentence right there is the crux of my problem. Although I know the rule of good writing is specificity, often when it comes to setting I try to wriggle by with generalities.
You might be amazed at how well this has often worked out for me... except, of course, when it doesn't. Unfortunately for me my current WIP is proving to be one of those times when I am finding it difficult to let the story-world create itself as I go. While my first novel was a contemporary romance requiring little in the way of research, my latest WIP is more of an urban fantasy with lots of weird things happening. It's been really fun to write... that is until I have to come up with an explanation for the weird happenings.
Like my previous post on plotting, I am finding that I have to take a time-out and answer the questions that are being raised. And again like plotting this is not what I would call the "fun" part of writing. I would compare it to the way I feel about doing housework - it is not something I enjoy, but it must be done because I do not want to live in the midst of a nasty stinky mess. Similarly, I don't want my characters to live in a messy unkempt world either.
None of this, however, answers the question of how I create my story-world - because I really haven't done it yet - at least, not the way that I intend to. What I can do is get back to the business of choosing, creating, and hopefully creating some sense of authenticity and when I'm done I will do my utmost to remember exactly how I did it so that A. I can do it again and B. I can tell you all about it.
You can also bet that I'll be reading the rest of the entries in this blog chain with great interest, and no doubt learning a thing or two from my fellow chain-gangers. Follow me to the next post over at Archetype Writing.