On world building and how to avoid the “info-dump”

Hello gentle reader,

It’s Friday, let’s talk about writing and Fantasy, shall we?

Before I started querying my novel The Last Queen, I researched agents and the reasons why they reject A LOT of High/Epic Fantasy manuscripts. Most of the time, their verdict is: too much info-dump in the first pages. It means that instead of artfully weaving the secondary world into the story, the writer buries the reader under a heap of information. Agents and readers? They don’t like it, especially if your novel is intended for young adults.

series-of-unfortunate-events-2

We are bored.

So today, I’d like to help you avoid painful rejections or reviews by sharing a few tips on world building and how to eliminate the dreaded “info-dump” in 3 steps…

Step 1: Recognizing the “info-dump”

Let’s say you’ve been told your novel is “plagued by info-dump”. It’s not nice to hear, but we’re here to learn and make our stories better, aren’t we? So how do you recognize the signs of “info-dumping”? You ask yourself the following questions:

–          Does your Epic Fantasy novel include long descriptive passages where absolutely nothing happens and whose sole purpose is, well, to describe stuff?

–          Do your characters have conversations about things they already know? Is the sole purpose of these conversations to give information to the reader?

–          Do you explain your world to the reader instead of showing it to him?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you’re guilty of info-dumping. But fear not, gentle reader! You can FIX THAT.

series-of-unfortunate-events

I don’t see how this situation can be fixed.

Step 2: Fixing the “info-dump” problem

The key here is to avoid the aforementioned issues by making your world building integral to the plot and having it emerge as the story unfolds. Your readers need to be slowly immersed into the world you created, not banged on the head with it. How do you do that?

–          You focus on the plot and the action. Instead of spending a chapter describing the Big Castle, you have your Hero escape from said castle and, as he is being chased by the Bad Guys, you include a few details that give the reader an idea of the setting, through the MC’s eyes.

–          As a result, you can’t describe everything. Because you only include the few details that your hero sees as he runs through the corridors of the castle, you can’t tell the reader about all the castle’s turrets and secret passageways. And it’s fine! Because even with only the few details you give him, your reader will be able to imagine the rest. Trust him.

But as you delete all the info-dump and replace it with a few chosen details, how do you know what to focus on?

Series-of-Unfortunate-Events-3

I’m listening.

Step 3: Focusing on the details that matter

So you’re building your secondary world by showing it as the story unfolds, awesome! But what to focus on? You focus on the details that matter for the specific scene/action you’re writing. And there’s so much to choose from, it’s easy to find something that will be a nice touch of world building in your scene without appearing to be world building to the reader. Here is what you can mention in passing and that will help you build your world:

–          Natural elements: flora and fauna, rocks and animals, bugs and creatures…

–          Political elements

–          Cultural elements: religion, mythology, language

–          Historical and geographical elements

–          And if all else fails, as we say in England, mention the weather.

Hoping this helps, feel free to leave me your comments and questions below! (This blog post was sponsored by A Series of Unfortunate Events. Or not.)

And if you want to find out more about this topic, here are a few useful links:

Juliet Marillier talks about creating Fantasy Worlds…

World Building: In the Beginning… by Raewyn Hewitt

How to Dump Info without Info-dumping– Writing Lessons from Inception by Shallee McArthur

World-Building 201: How to eliminate the info-dump by Hayley E Lavik

The Best Of 2012 – Movies

Hello gentle reader,

This is my last post looking back at 2012… I already mentioned the TV shows I watched this year in this post and my favourite 2012 books here.Today I’m finishing this series of posts with movies I watched in 2012. This year I watched a total of 30 new releases (most of them at the theatre) and I have picked 10 to share with you…

The-Hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The-Dark-Knight-Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

The-Hunger-Games

The Hunger Games

Breaking Dawn Part 2

Twilight – Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Underworld-Awakening

Underworld – Awakening

Snow-White-and-the-Huntsman 2

Snow White and the Huntsman

Lockout

Lock-out

The Avengers

The Avengers

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

Immortals

Immortals

What did you watch this year? Any movies you’d recommend? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

The Best Of 2012 – Books by Debut Authors

Hello gentle reader,

I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

As the end of the year draws near, I am looking back at 2012… I already mentioned a few TV shows I watched this year in this post. And today I’d like to give you a list of my favourite 2012 debut authors. I have interviewed a few of them on my blog and you can click on their names to read those interviews.

Leigh-Bardugo-The-Gathering-Dark-UK

The Gathering Dark (aka Shadow and Bone) by Leigh Bardugo (YA High Fantasy)

Something-Strange-and-Deadly

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (YA Steampunk/Horror)

Throne of Glass- UK cover

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA High Fantasy)

Skylark

Skylark by Meagan Spooner (YA Dystopia)

Hollow-Pike

Hollow Pike by James Dawson (YA Paranormal)

The-Forsaken-UK

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse (YA Dystopia)

Struck-JenniferBosworth

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth (YA Paranormal)

Cavendish

The Cavendish Home For Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand (MG Gothic Fantasy)

Black City-Elizabeth Richards

Black City by Elizabeth Richards (YA Dystopia)

What did you read in 2012? Which debut author did you discover? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Book of the Week – 16

Hello gentle reader,

This week I have finally been reading The Gathering Dark (Book 1 in the Grisha trilogy) (aka Shadow and Bone) by Leigh Bardugo.

This book was published in May 2012 and I was VERY excited about it. I bought it as soon as it came out, I read the first two chapters that same night… and I didn’t open it for 7 months. As those months went by, I read raving reviews about the book, I kept having people recommend it to me, and yet I couldn’t seem to find the will to dive back into it.

I’m not sure what it was.

It is a beautifully written YA High Fantasy book with a great plot and compelling characters, but I guess I had to read it at the right time to finally enjoy it. To me this was “a winter book”: a book to read snuggled under a blanket, when there’s snow outside and with a cup of tea at hand.

I’m glad I finally read The Gathering Dark. Have you ever had a book that sat on your TBR pile forever when you were initially looking forward to reading it?

Leigh-Bardugo-The-Gathering-Dark-UK

From Goodreads:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

What are you reading this week?

shadow_bone_sketch_both3

The Next Big Thing – Week 27 (#2)

Forest-EMCastellan

Hello gentle reader,

So if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve already read what follows. Back in early October, I was tagged for The Next Big Thing blog hop and I answered questions about my Work In Progress. But since then, this blog has gained new followers and I keep getting tagged for this blog hop. I have actually lost track of who tagged me and when, but last week I was tagged again by Craig Schmidt and I decided it was time to repost my answers to the Next Big Thing questions…

What is the working title of your book?

THE LAST QUEEN (Book I in THE DARKLANDS trilogy)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started thinking about this story ten years ago. I wanted to write a story where the main character would be a teenage girl (like I was at the time). I also liked the idea of a fantasy land where humans were the lesser people. Finally I wanted to write a love story that would be as realistic as possible, although set in an imaginary land.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA high fantasy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the dangerous Darklands, a power struggle between Elves, Wolfmen and Humans is igniting, shattering the lives of a young princess, a warrior and a slave boy whose destinies seem meant to intertwine.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to cheat for that one 😉 I have no idea who would play my characters on screen, but I can tell you who inspired me while I was writing The Last Queen. I need to have a clear picture of my characters in my head in order to bring them to life, and I’m usually inspired by actors. With that in mind, here goes:

Elian is my main character. He is a 16-year-old slave whose life has been quite traumatic until he meets Araminta. He was directly based on English actor Eddie Redmayne, who was in countless historical movies between 2007 and 2010. Every time I saw him on screen I thought “This is Elian!” So here it is: Elian.

Araminta is 14 years old. She is an Elf, and a Queen. She is strong-willed, smart and quiet. When I described her in my WIP, I thought of English actress Lucy Griffiths.

Theron is 19 years old and he is Araminta’s husband. He is a Wolfman and the son of a lord, who loses all at the beginning of my WIP. He is a short-tempered warrior who happens to be very good-looking. Since I have had a crush on British actor Henry Cavill since, well, forever, I pictured Theron looking like him.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Call me crazy, but I’m going for the traditional route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Seven months for the first draft. Then six months for the first round of revision. I have battled with a high word count, instances of telling instead of showing, repetitions, adverbs, passive form and everything you shouldn’t do when you write. I’m still working on this manuscript, hoping one day I will get it in shape for the query process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough one. If you don’t know what High or Epic Fantasy is, think Game of Thrones and The Lord Of The Rings. But I can’t compare my WIP to those masterpieces. Since it’s YA, I guess it could be compared to The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My favourite character in the book (beside Elian) is Araminta’s bodyguard/slave/assassin Jerod. I actually wrote a short story about him entitled The First Guardian, because I felt he deserved his own story since he is, you know, awesome.

Thanks to all who nominated me!

Book of the Week – 15

Hello gentle reader,

I realise I haven’t done a “Book of the Week” post in a while, but this is because I have been reading a series of books by YA Fantasy author Megan Whalen Turner and I wanted to finish it before I shared it with you.

Nicknamed The Queen’s Thief by its readers (MWT has no name for it herself), the series has four books so far, with 2 more announced. The first book in the series, The Thief, was published in 1996 and it won the Newbery Medal in 1997.The following books are The Queen of Attolia (2000), The King of Attolia (2006), and A Conspiracy of Kings (2010).

This YA High Fantasy series is not well known, and I came across it because Sarah J. Maas (author of 2012 debut Throne of Glass) recommended it.

And I’m so glad I went ahead and read it. Not only is this series so well written it makes me want to weep, it is also a very clever, audacious and captivating example of great High Fantasy for young adult readers. Each book plays with points of view, has a smart twist at the end and explores themes such as religion, politics and personal choices. The main character, Gen, is nothing like you’ve read before, I promise. And if you haven’t read this series yet, I suggest you get it sooner rather than later, because you’re missing out.

From Goodreads:

The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. The magus is interested only in the thief’s abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone’s guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

What are you reading this week?

Gratitude Giveaway (aka 200 followers giveaway) (closed)

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED!

The winner will be contacted by email

Hello gentle reader,

so my blog has almost reached 200 followers and I have decided to take part in to the 3rd Annual Gratitude Giveaways Blog Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer to thank all of you for  you support during the past few months.

The giveaway runs from today until Sunday 25th November, 2012. The giveaway is open Internationally. Since this giveaway is to thank my followers, you have to follow my blog via email or WordPress to enter.

I am giving away two books to one winner:

– a copy of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA High Fantasy, UK paperback)

– a signed (!) copy of Wilde’s Army (Darkness Falls: Book 2) by Krystal Wade (YA Paranormal romance, US paperback)

Giveaway information:

The giveaway is open until Sunday 25th November, 2012 at midnight (BST time).

To enter please fill in the contact form below with your name and email, and let me know if you follow via email or WordPress.

You HAVE TO follow my blog by email or WordPress to enter.

Entrants must be at least 13 years of age.

This giveaway is open Internationally.

The winner will be chosen randomly, notified by email and will have 72 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.

I am not responsible for items lost in the mail.

I hold the right to end the giveaway before its original deadline without any prior notice.

I hold the right to disqualify any entry as I see fit.

Privacy information: no information given for this giveaway will be used for other purpose than this giveaway. All information provided (names, emails and mail addresses) will be deleted after the giveaway.

Good luck and feel free to leave me a comment below…