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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creating a world you don’t want to leave

Please join me in welcoming PAN author, Leanna Renee Hieber, to the FF&P blog.

I write series books. Considering I’m here on the FF and P blog today, I figure I’m in good company. Fantasy books formed my literary passions from an early age; all of them series books. When you start writing those series books, you better love the world you’ve built because who knows how long it will be with you. When I began The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker I didn’t know it was a four book series. When you plant fertile seeds, who knows what might sprout.

I want this post to become a discussion between authors, published and pre-published, of what we love about our worlds and why they become addictive to us.

Every author has their own process, mine begins with character. An idea of them comes to me and then I sit back and watch them as if they were actors in a film (sometimes I’ll cast my characters) and I write the movie that I watch in my head. Characters in my mind’s eye are placed within a setting, the details of which emerge as I think more about the characters. But the characters have to live somewhere. My lifetime love affair with ghosts and Victorian England of course drew me to make their world a “realistic” Victorian universe haunted by ghosts and mythological forces.

Once I build a world via character and a setting that’s compelling to me, things keep growing, people and ideas grow more complex, and that for me is the most rewarding part of writing, how the petals of the rose begin to bloom. So while I love all of the supernatural devices, mythic conventions and Gothic trappings I happily call upon, what actually keeps me falling more and more in love with my characters is watching them grow. Watching them grow up as I grow up and listening for them to tell me things I didn’t know about them. (I’m working on edits to book II, writing book III and IV right now, they’re all dove-tailing upon each other so I’m switching back and forth in my mind, whatever is calling to me wins. I’m learning a lot about my characters right now and every little piece informs the rest of the work and worlds.)

Here’s how I open the world of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker: The theme of this initial opening is something I find myself returning to as the series continues…

Prologue - London, England—1867

The air in London was grey. This was no surprise; but the common eye could not see the particular heaviness of the atmosphere or the unusual weight of this special day’s charcoal clouds: The sky was pregnant with a potent wind, for The Guard was searching for new hosts.

On to London they came, and that wind full of spirits began to course through the streets of the city; merciless, searching. Around corners, elbowing aside London’s commoners and high society alike, nudging their way through market crowds and tearing down dirty alleys, they sought their intended. A candle burst into flame in the window of a marquess’s house. The tiny cry of a young boy summoned his mother into the drawing room. Similar sounds went up in other parts of the city, confused gasps growing into amazed giggles before being subdued into solemnity. One by one the intended targets were seized.

Six. Five …Where is Four? Ah … Four.

Now, Three.

Alone and unaccompanied, the children left their respective houses and began to walk.

And, Two.

Searching for the final piece, the greatest of the possessors paused, a hesitating hunter. Deliberate. And, finally … the brightest, boldest, most promising catch of the day..

One, and done! A sigh of relief. The city’s infamous fog thinned.

Only a bird above espied the six drawing toward London’s center; weaving through a maze of clattering carriages, stepping cautiously over putrid puddles, a sextet of children looked about the cluttered merchant lanes and sober business avenues with new eyes and saw strange sights. There were ghosts everywhere: floating through walls and windows, they rose up through streets and strolled beside quiet couples! One by one, each transparent form turned to the children, who could only stare in wonder and apprehension. In ethereal rags, spirits of every century bowed in deference, as if they were passing royalty.
Drawn in a pattern from all corners of London, the six children gathered in a knot at the crest of Westminster Bridge. Nodding a silent greeting to one another, or curtseying, the youths found each other’s faces unsettlingly mature. Excitement tempered only by confusion crept into their expressions as they evaluated their new peers, in garb ranging from fine clothing to simple frocks, their social statuses clearly as varied as their looks.

A spindly girl whose brown hair was pinned tightly to her head kept turning, looking for something, clutching the folds of her linen frock and shifting on the heels of her buttoned boots. It was her tentative voice that at last broke the silence: “Hello. I’m Rebecca. Where is our leader, then?”

A sturdy, ruddy-cheeked boy in a vest and cap, cuffs rolled to his elbows, gestured to the end of the street. “Hello, Rebecca, I’m Michael. Is that him?”

Approaching the cluster was a tall, well-dressed, unmistakable young man. A mop of dark hair held parley with the wind, blowing about the sharp features of his face, while timeless, even darker eyes burned in their sockets. His fine black suit gave the impression of a boy already a man. He reached the group and bowed, his presence magnetic, confident … and somewhat foreboding. In a rich, velvet voice deep as the water of the Thames, he spoke. “Good day. My name is Alexi Rychman, and this has turned into the strangest day of my life.”

(End of Excerpt) More details at http://www.leannareneehieber.com/ Where I hope you’ll join in the Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog Tour beginning 8/22 and Contest on 8/25!

Your turn to talk about what you love about your worlds!
Leanna Renee Hieberwww.leannareneehieber.com2009 Prism Award Winner: DARK NESTUpcoming from Leisure Books / Dorchester Publishing:THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER - the ghostly, Gothic, Victorian fantasy begins 8/25/09!


Jeanne Ryan said...

Where did you put your Prism?

Until fairly recently, I was more interested in creating an awesome world than telling a story. I consider myself a world builder more than a storyteller. Now that the world can't be built anymore, I'm much more interested in the stories that will go there. Before it was creating a story to show off my world. Now things are flowing more organically. What happens when I put my characters into this world.


Elysa said...

Leanna, Great opening. I'm looking forward to reading your book. I too usually start my stories with a character or characters in some unique situation. Then I have to figure out who they are and why they're there. It isn't until about half-way, sometimes 9/10ths of the way through a book before I really know what the main theme or the book will be. Then, sadly I have to go back and edit and revise. I'm not much of a pre-plotter. Often I don't even know how the book will end until I actually get there.

Barbara Monajem said...

Wow, what a great spooky beginning.

I tend to world-build as I go along, which means a lot of revision is needed later. Even if I know my world, characters with new abilities tend to pop up unannounced, and I can't resist them. :))

Looking forward to the blog tour!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...


*huge grin* My Prism is near to my desk so I can stare at it a lot. Heeee! Thanks for asking :)

I hear you! I'd much rather sometimes get lost in the atmosphere than do those pesky things like... connective tissue between scenes...

I'm excited to hear things are flowing, it feels so good when that happens. We'll always have our favourite parts of the writing process, but it's good when the whole starts really rolling. Kudos!

Elysa, Barbara, hey there! I'm glad you enjoyed the beginning :)

Elysa, *hugs* to my fellow 'pantser' - I am so with you!

Barbara, I hear you on that point too! Isn't it fun when a character does something and you gasp and go... "I didn't know they could do that!" :) And I like the fact that you say you can't resist it, it's like sometimes the Muse gives us Christmas Presents to unwrap. :)

KL Grady said...

Leanna - the atmosphere in your opening is fab!

My current monstrosity came into being with a character. She talked in my head so loud, I had to pull over the car and start taking notes. Once I had her, I built the world I imagined had created her. I love the tension built into the society, and I really enjoy coming up with more ways the society can oppress my characters. :)

Lisa Kessler said...

Great blog post!

I too write out the movies that play in my head. :)

My worlds germinate as I write the story. I think if I built the entire world first I might get bored with it! LOL

Lisa :)

Karin Shah said...

I'm with the pantzer brigade. I start with a character and the world develops as the story unfolds. I think character is really important in world building because a character is formed by his or her world. The are inextricably linked in my mind.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

KL -

LOL "current monstrosity"
I can't wait to read that heroine of yours! I love how you say that you built the world that created her - that is an awesome way to put it. And I love tension, it really helps keep engagment, from readers and as you're writing!

Hey Lisa!

Glad to hear you let the world unfold around you too, I agree that if I had too much established up front, I think my A.D.D. factor might get bored too!

Hey darling! Huzzah for the Pantzer brigade! We should have pins :) I couldn't agree more that character/worlds are linked, that's a really great point to make, because if they don't go together and inform one another, it's so jarring.


La-Tessa said...

Thanks for the insight into your process Leanna (or do you go by Leanna Renee??).

I am currently working on an urban fantasy series and for me, the first step in this process is getting to know the world in which my characters will live and play.

But I think it's a balancing act, I don't want to completely, 100% firm up the world before I start outlining because I think it will limit my creativity by locking me in with a firm set of rules that can't be changed. So I'm looking forward to a little create as a go.

Great opening for your upcoming release, I am looking forward to the day it goes on sale.


Leanna Renee Hieber said...

(I go by either, 'hey you' works too, but it doesn't look as nice on a book cover)

I've told you and I'll say it again, I can't WAIT to read your world, it's SO cool. And I agree with you, there has to be a flexibility between world-rules and what works for the characters (structural issues and pacing I have to work out later, that's definately a final step for me)

Thanks for stopping by!