I always enjoy reading books that are rich in atmosphere and details of the world setting. In other words, I like more than just the story and dialog. I want to be immersed in the author's world. When I open the book I want to see and feel the world and how the characters interact within that world. Books have changed in the last twenty years. In the 80's most genres had more narrative, more fascinating facts weaved into the story. You were entertained and learned something in the process.
Now, much of that has gone by the wayside in favor of fast paced dialog and everything happening in a very short period of time and minimum time for giving the reader more than the barest sketch of the author's world. Certainly not enough time to weave in fascinating details that make the setting different from a hundred other books. Granted, there were authors that went just a little bit overboard with narrative.
So, where's the balance? Jessica's topic touches on just those things. How she builds a world with enough details to set it apart from our world but without drowning us in facts or backstory.
If you’re actively writing and submitting fiction, especially romantic fiction, you’ve probably heard something along the lines of “editors are looking for something that’s the same but different.” And if you’re anything like me, you’ve wondered how the heck you were supposed to manage that.
Well, one of the ways I do recognizable-but-different is by coloring the world of my paranormal thrillers with details from an unusual mythology: that of the ancient Maya. But although this adds a definite cool factor to the books, there’s a catch … it’s really easy to go overboard on the details and distract your reader from the “now” of the story.
Much like Lucius, the hero of my newest release, Demonkeepers, I’m a nerd at heart. I glom onto details, and I get jazzed when I come away from a book or movie having learned a thing or two while being thoroughly entertained. For example, Jurassic Park brought velociraptors into the mainstream, and DaVinci Code—questions of accuracy aside—introduced me to a can of worms I hadn’t known about before … But at the same time, neither of them made me feel like there was going to be a quiz once the credits rolled.
I’m a scientist by training: Back in my lab-rat days and during my PhD studies, I worked on cloning genes for inherited eye diseases. Although these days my only remaining foothold in science is editing journal articles, my research skills have helped me track down the information I’ve needed to bring the novels of the Nightkeepers to life.
I love the history of the ancient Maya, and I’m fascinated by the science surrounding the 2012 end date. For example, the Maya set their calendar to end on the day—far in their future—that their astronomers precisely calculated that the earth, sun and moon would align as they passed through the dark hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy (which the Maya believed was the entrance to the underworld). It’s just a coincidence that this day corresponds to the symmetrical date of 12/21/12 in the Gregorian calendar … or is it?
In each book, I try to bring in a different piece of the Mayan culture: Skykeepers touched on the use of chocolate in Mayan rituals, and this month’s release, Demonkeepers, includes the Mesoamerican ball game, which was the first to use a bouncing rubber game ball.
However, as I’m writing, I have to work on containing my inner geek. I’m constantly tempted to include all the other stuff that has gotten a ‘ding ding’ on my internal wow-that’s-cool-ometer … but the thing is, it’s not all relevant. What’s more, too much external detail, even when it relates to the plot, can yank your reader out of the story’s “now.”
Luckily, I have an awesome critique partner who routinely hits me with comments like: “Let’s get to the running, screaming, shooting, and/or sex!” Recently, she and I talked about why some details work for her while others make her eyes glaze over. Where was the line? We eventually figured out that the info she found very cool and “Indiana Jones-like” in my stories tended to be details that were concretely linked to the characters’ immediate experiences.
When Lucius and Jade stand in front of a panel of hieroglyphs and a painted scene of Mayan ball players, it interested her to know what the scene looked like and a little bit about the ballgame. In contrast, she skimmed over a block of narrative about the Nightkeepers’ connection to ancient Egypt, because that was backstory, not what was happening in the “now” of the story.
To paraphrase one of her critiques: Tell me what’s happening NOW!! What are they feeling NOW??? And if there’s a detail you’re just dying to get in there, turn it into something cool and relevant within the NOW of the story. Because that’s the thing that will add texture and let your reader come away from your story totally jazzed because she (or he) just learned something new while being entertained.
- Do you like learning bits of facts in the stories you read? Do those bits of fact make a para world more believable?
Lucius is an Indiana Jones wannabe who never quite measures up, until a twist of magic brings him powers beyond belief... and reunites him with Jade, the one-night stand he never forgot.
Despite the sizzling chemistry between them—and the added power that comes with a love match—Jade is determined to prove that she’s more than a researcher … she can be a Nightkeeper warrior in her own right.
But as the two race to rescue the sun god himself from the underworld, they learn that kicking ass isn’t enough. They’ll need all their brains and skill—and the long-denied love that burns between them—to foil the dark lords’ plot. Excerpt
If you get the chance, do go look at Jessica's Website. It's gorgeous and I love the theme. Jessica lists her books and the storyline as well as some excerpts.
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Jessica Andersen is the bestselling RITA and RT nominated author of more than twenty Harlequin Intrigues and the Nightkeeper Novels, a hot paranormal series that sexes up the 2012 doomsday. FMI about the books or Jessica, please visit http://www.jessicaandersen.com/.