I’m reading THE QUANTUM THIEF by Hannu Rajaniemi. He uses language the way an abstract painter uses paint. Some writers have the universe, or multiples, inside their heads. I’m only at page 15, and I feel like I’m there. To be honest I’m not too worried where the plot goes, I just like hanging out in it.
The second volume is The Fractal Prince. I was looking forward to this one, but life got in the way and I must make the time for it.
This is an important skill for novelists and TV and screenwriters. Your readers/viewers need a positive pull to make them want to hang out in your characters’ world. Whether it’s fantasy or realism, the world must feel authentic for the consumer to suspend disbelief. Science Fiction worlds at first glance might seem the most challenging, and certainly a writer needs to be more imaginative and inventive than say, a historical fiction writer, however, considerable effort must be put into each.
Masters of the Hang Out
Read any novel by Stephen King and marvel at the detail and authenticity of the different decades of the twentieth century that ground his stories and make the fantasy so believable. Another one was the late Iain M. Banks, also the late Douglas Adams, whose extra-terrestrial worlds fill us with wonder and make us want to read on. Another favourite of mine is A.A. Attanasio. You will have your favorites. Dwell in the Clan of the Cave Bear world of Jean M. Auel, the elegant Gothic world of Anne Rice’s vampires, the hardscrabble environment of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, and the amazing world of Harry Potter, accessed only by special train from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Rail Station. Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, any number of beautifully researched period pieces such as Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. I could go on.
Creating Your Characters’ World
Writer, before you get too far stuck into the actions and reactions of your characters, stop to imagine the world they inhabit. Create it, embellish it, add the detail. You’ll be surprised at what turns up. Lack of preparation at the early stages can lead to plot holes, writer’s block or even, dare I say it, abandonment. For the visual mediums, your production designer and director will thank you for creating a rich authentic world for them to draw on. For TV series, defining the world, the fashion, costumes, habits, transport, leisure and work, food, and so on, is an indispensable component of your Series Bible, and something the show runner will expect to see. You have to present the Bible at the pitching phase. Today’s research tools, especially the Internet and search engines make the task so much easier, so savour the phase of creating your literary hang out, and relish it.
First published October 2012