Sunday, March 31, 2013

World Building - Romance Novel Series Style

In response to my post on World Building in Series Fiction a reader asked this question. How can the principles of series world building be applied to a series of romance novels?

Rules are the foundation of any world you build as the setting for any series in any genre. Those rules differ from genre to genre according to the conventions of each of those genres.

The conventions of a genre can be most easily defined in terms of reader expectations of that genre. When a reader buys a book in that genre what does he or she expect to find in the story?

Identifying these expectations is essential to success in writing any genre novel. Violating reader expectations can thwart that success big time. Thou shalt not disappoint reader expectations.

The first among reader expectations of a romance novel is that it be pretty much all about the romantic relationship at the center of the story – the relationship between the lovers.

This convention or rule carries over big time to the romance novel series and it starts with the most basic unit of each novel in that series. That most basic unit is the scene.

Each individual scene must focus somehow on the romantic relationship. The story of that relationship as it progresses toward the inevitable happy ending is the plot of the book.

The world of each book and of the entire series radiates out from that focus. The family and the community you create exist only to provide a context for the romance at the center of each story.

When you digress from the romantic relationship focus in any romance novel scene or book or series you violate the first rule of the genre and of your series world. All other rules evolve from this basic principle.

Beyond that I have one more piece of advice. Study the champion series world builders of your genre. As always in all writing the successful authors themselves are your best teachers.

In romance I suggest Sherryl Woods and Susan Wiggs and the matriarch of them all Debbie Macomber. Deduce the rules that define their series worlds. The details that give each world its beating heart.

Ask yourself how each of these details might be adapted to the world of your series. Then go deep down to the soul of that world and with each vibrant detail make it come alive on the page.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Build a Series - Build a World

Novels in a series are a road to success for an author. They are also an adventure that takes place in a world. You build that world detail by detail and scene by scene.

Your goal is to draw readers into the world you build and make them want to stay there through one book then the next and the next. To do this you must create a world that has reality and resonance.

At Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference I learned that you must also create a world that has Rules. Following these rules makes your world consistent and adds to its reality and resonance.

Conference panelists Caridad Pineiro and Elisabeth Staab and Stephanie Julian talked about rules and world building in the genre of paranormal romance. They also got me thinking.

They got me thinking about fiction world building in general. They got me thinking about how establishing rules applies to all series writing in all genres – and even to all storytelling.

To hook a reader you must master the art of immersion. You immerse your reader so completely in the story world you create that she is eager to remain there until you release her at The End.

Your reader will miss that world when she is forced to leave. She will be equally eager to return there again and again. Thus you have set the hook for a series as well.

One way to sabotage that good effort is to slip an inconsistency into the mix. An off-key note that disturbs the reader and awakens her from what John Gardner calls the dream of the book.

To prevent this you establish and follow the rules of your story or series world. Some of these rules you figure out in advance. Others arise as the story grows and reveals more of itself to you.

A bonus of this exercise is that it immerses you as author deeper and deeper into the world you are creating. From this deep place you are better able to bring your story to real and resonant life.

In this respect story rules are anything but limiting. They liberate your writer’s imagination into the flowing ocean of the story and its world. Like your reader you never want to leave.

Write a series and you don’t have to leave. You dive back into that immersing current with each new story you create. You have built a world where you can thrive all the way along your road to success.