Monday, May 10, 2010


Today we have author Laura Bickle talking about world-building. Welcome Laura and thanks for being here tell us a little bit about world building. (something I know I need to brush up on myself)...

Laura Bickle, Author of Embers

One of the things that I really enjoyed in writing EMBERS was world-building.
Many world-building guides parked on library shelves that tend to be heavy on hard sci-fi and sword-n-sorcery. If urban fantasy or magical realism is mentioned at all, it's quickly glossed over. This lack of attention suggests that world-building isn't really necessary in a book or story that has its roots in reality.

I've gotta disagree with that approach. An urban fantasy or magical realism world needs some lovin' attention from its creator. The world has to consistently adhere to its own rules, no matter how mundane or fantastic they are. The world also has a history before the story, and will have a future afterward. It should breathe and move...essentially, the world is another character that needs to be profiled. The world isn't just a set piece for the actors to charge through. It interacts with the characters with its own moods, restrictions, and atmopshere.

In writing about Detroit, I had the opportunity for my husband (a Detroit native) to play tour guide. We visited places like the Detroit Museum of Arts that became places in my story. I gathered every last clipping I could find about the Detroit Salt Mine that stretches under the city - in my mind, it was the perfect location for a dragon lair. Slowly, the city became a character in itself, as much an important character as my protagonist.

I keep notebooks dedicated to worlds. I pull out magazine pictures of buildings, maps, and articles about cities I'm inspirted by and paste them in. I make lists of magical rules to answer questions rattling around in my notes: Is holy ground a deterrent to the ghoulies and ghosties? How far can fairies fly on those stubby little wings, anyway? Can my vampires cross running water...and if not, what about that bridge in the middle of town? These are really ugly notebooks, full of scribbles and pages stuck together with glue, but they make sense to me.
But they allow me to work out the limits of my urban fantasy world. It's built up in my mind, brick by brick. Sometimes, it spills out organically on the paged. But it's always present, in every scene, and deserves a large amount of real estate in my head.

Laura Bickle is the author of EMBERS, coming April 2010 from Pocket-Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's also the author of DARK ORACLE, coming June 2010 from Pocket-Juno Books. More information is available on her websites, and

Publisher's blurb for EMBERS:

Truth burns.

Unemployment, despair, anger--visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit's unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.

Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya--who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern--suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil's Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya--with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team --can stop it.

Anya's accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she's risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she's ever faced.

Thanks everyone for stopping by. Thank you Laura for sharing your world building experience with us.
p.s. Later today I'll be over at Musetracks guest blogging about not giving up. (writing)

Dawn Chartier
Not An Angel, TWRP May 12, 2010


Suzanne said...

Great post! I think urban fantasy creates extra challenges in world-building because, unlike traditional fantasy, we have to work within the parameters of modifying a city/setting that our readers might know a lot about!

Laura Bickle said...

Exactly! I think that means that we have to be extra conscious of where our borders are between the real world and the stepping-off point of fantasy...and we get no license to be lazy! ;-)