“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.”
— George Singleton
“World-building should be quick and merciless.
In a novel, you can spend ten pages explaining how the 29th Galactic Congress established a Peacekeeping Force to regulate the use of interstitial jumpgates, and this Peacekeeping Force evolved over the course of a century to include A.I.s in its command structure, etc. etc.
In a short story, you really need to hang your scenery as fast as possible. My friend and mentor d.g.k. goldberg always cited the Heinlein line: “The door dilated,” which tells you a lot about the surroundings in three words. Little oblique references to stuff your characters take for granted can go a long way.
Make us believe there’s a world beyond your characters’ surroundings.
Even though you can’t spend tons of time on world-building, you have to include enough little touches to make us believe there’s stuff we’re not seeing. It’s like the difference between the fake house-fronts in a cowboy movie and actual houses. We should glimpse little bits of your universe, that don’t necessarily relate to your characters’ obsessions.”
For more writing tips from Charlie Jane Anders, click here.
“Rehearse your writing by explaining the feel of a room, a street, or a park. Is it expansive, or economical? Friendly, or foreboding? Clean, or chaotic? What do your other senses tell you? What is the noise level? How does it smell? What are the textures like? Is it easy to walk through or along, or to otherwise navigate, or do obstacles interfere?
If your story takes place in a natural landscape, describe the terrain and what associations it has based on whether it conjures a sense of grace, harmony, and peace or whether it is full of bleak, harsh, jagged features. How does the presence of vegetation, or bodies of water, contribute to the feel of the terrain? What effect does the weather produce?
Place your characters in the context of their locations by showing, without telling, whether they are at home in their setting or whether the environment is alien to them, and how they respond to their feelings.”
For more great tips from Mark Nichol, click here.
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