Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Parallel Worlds

As an aside from the world building series, I have read stories which contained two worlds in one. Modern day (or historical) Earth as we know it, which may or may not include the existence of mythological creatures or aliens—and a second, parallel universe, which can operate in many different ways. The second universe, as you might think, obviously operates by the rules I set down in my previous six posts.

Now, as I said, there are many different ways to write a parallel universe. My best advice to you is to be consistent. But in case you're having trouble deciding how the gears turn in your parallel world, let me give you a few concrete examples:

1) I'll start with Christine Warren's Others series. In her books, there are three worlds: Earth with shifters, vampires, and the like; an Underworld with demons, imps, etc.; and Faerie, consisting of (you guessed it) fairies. Here, alongside Earth, we have a world of light and a world of dark, although the occupants are not necessarily kind- or evil-hearted. In essence, you have an echo of the classic Heaven-Earth-Hell scenario.

You can introduce the same in your own piece of writing very easily. In order for this type of parallel world to be convincing, you need to have some sort of reason for there to be a light and a dark world. The easiest would be to base your story off some sort of religion, and incorporate an actual Heaven and Hell. I'll let your own imagination roam free for the details of this land, but if you're writing an angel-demon story (whether or not some creatures, like vampires for instance, might be thought of as "demonic"), this is an ideal way to base your worlds. If you think of Hell as either dark or torturous, developing your world will be a lot easier to do.

2) Next, I'm going to draw on Angela Knight's Mageverse series. This is a prime example of a magic world. Here, there are two worlds, one which is the normal Earth, free of all magic, and another which is a magical world. In the magical world, magic runs free, and this is where witches and magical creatures stem, and where they can use all forms of magic the best.

If you use this type of parallel world, I caution you: make sure you set down rules for how your magical system behaves. Magic cannot simply run rampant or your world will be unbelievable. Does it work through runes? A certain language? Artefacts? Do you need a sacrifice? Or is the cost of the magic taken out on the wielder himself? I once read it brilliantly worked in the Obsidian Mountain Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, where for each piece of magic performed, they were given a task to complete. This task could be anything, but the magnitude of the task depended on the magnitude of the spell performed.

Something else to keep in mind if you decide to write this sort of parallel world is how the magic will affect Earth, or be affected by Earth. Will your spellcasters be able to work it on Earth? If so, will it take a more taxing toll? One thing to remember is that rules are there for a reason, not to be broken. Think of physics. Because of gravity, I can't fly (howevermuch I'd like to). In order for your world(s) to come alive on the page, you must set the same sorts of limitations on the magical existence.

Lastly for this type of parallel world, think of what magic would do to the world itself. You have to assume it won't be identical to Earth. Perhaps there are fluxuations in the magic, which cause magical storms, anomalies, or deformed creatures.

3) My third example is best shown in MaryJanice Davidson's Canis Royal series. Unlike the other two, this is a magical world which cannot be crossed into often, and it can only be crossed into by dying on Earth. Because the crossing is absolute, this is a world which is completely set apart from Earth. This type of parallel world is a good choice for those seeking to highlight their fantasy world with comparisons to our world and society.

4) Although I have yet to read a romance novel that employs this sort of parallel world, the fourth method I can think of is to have a parallel world which echoes our world. For instance, every action in this world has an equal and opposite reaction in that world. One good thing would illicit one bad thing, one birth would bring one death, and so on. Of course, there are other ways for two parallel worlds to be linked, but that is the one which immediately comes to mind.

Whichever type of parallel world you create, you need to also think of a means of getting there. You could:

  • Cross worlds with a feat of magic.

  • Cross worlds only at certain times of day, month, or year.

  • Cross worlds only at certain places.

  • Cross worlds only upon death


  • Never have your characters cross worlds. Instead, create two main characters, one in each universe, and feature them in your story. This is especially effective in the case of the two worlds being linked.

Good luck with your writing! Next week I'll talk a little about marketing before I launch into a mini-series about mythological creatures in late May or early June.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

L. K. BELOW - How to Make Your Aliens Alien

Everyone takes a different approach when it comes to creation. That's what makes each writer unique. However, if you're at a loss, there are a couple points to think about when you're creating your species or world.

Fantasy writer Tessa Hei uses a world-by-world basis. Her approach is simple: use magic. Many times, her work classifies as urban fantasy, which means it is set in a modern-day setting, but with the addition of magic. If this sounds a little like your world, then read closely. Tessa Hei has a simple scheme to help develop her worlds.

She calls it "Hidden/Unhidden". Hidden is when only a few people know of this magic or supernatural entity. Many paranormal romances fall under this category. On the other hand, Unhidden is when everybody is aware of the magic. As Tessa puts it,

The difference between "Hidden" and "Unhidden" isn't the amount of time the character is aware of the magic; it's the amount of people in the world who knows about it. If it's lightly spoke of among anyone (e.g. you can say it to your grandma, the bag lady down the street, or the graduating class of '09), it's generally Unhidden. If magic is known but outlawed (not spoken lightly of), then what? That would be an Unhidden world; it's common knowledge. If magic has been forgotten and rediscovered in medieval ages: Hidden; not the whole world knows of it.

My approach is different. I focus more on the race itself, picking out points which could be used to differentiate humanity from an alien or supernatural species. The main points I concentrate on are: speech patterns, customs, and prejudices.

Clara just finished talking to you about language and slang, but I'm still going to skim over it lightly. When I work speech patterns into my races, it involves more than just slang. First of all, you do have to watch that your aliens DON'T speak slang, not unless they've been immersed in human culture for a while. Then, I always keep in mind that whatever my race, if their first language is not English, they're going to approach speaking English in a unique way. They might structure it differently. If any of you speak a second language (or if English is your second language) you likely know what I mean. Living in Canada, I speak some French. My first instinct is always to structure it as I would in English, but using French words. That is not always correct. When it doesn't jar the reader, I try to work in the same speech patterns with my alien characters.

I'm going to move on to prejudices and leave customs for last. Think about what prejudices afflict humanity, either now, or in the past. The main ones are: race, religion, and gender. Sometimes I work those into my stories. More often, I like to come up with new ones. Age, for instance. Either the young are dismissed out of hand, with the old being honoured almost to the point of being revered; or the old are dismissed out of hand and the young are honoured to the point of being revered. If the latter case, you could take the prejudice one step further, to where the old are often prosecuted or killed. Or, I once wrote a story where the status in society revolved around the number of eyes you had. The fewer eyes a character had, the higher up the command ladder he or she was. The same might be said of arms, legs, spots, horns, or wings.

Now, on to customs. This is where I like to show the divide between humanity and the race I've created. Even if I was given a thousand pages, I probably wouldn't be able to name all of the possibilities. In terms of romance, major customs you might want to explore are: mating, marriage, the naming of children, courtship, and certain things like fashion, eye contact, touching, dancing, etc. which might inadvertently encourage a sexually agressive response from your main character or love interest. Other ways customs might differ would be in burials, education, showing respect, or the use of body language.

In the end, it depends on how you'd like to make your point. If you're trying to illustrate how different the two species are, then I suggest you work in as many points of difference as you can. If, on the other hand, you're trying to show that the two, although different on the outside, are really quite similar, I would start with some differences in the beginning of the story, but weed them out as you go along. If a character was once human, likely there won't be very many differences at all.

Thanks, Clara, for having me!

L. K. Below blogs at Her paranormal romance short story “His Familiar Touch” is set to be released in Cliffhanger Books' Paramourtal anthology. Visit her at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

World Building, Part 6: Language

For those of you paranormal or sci-fi romance writers about to exit the page because you don't think this applies to you, think again. There are many parts to language which you need to include in your book. Just to be contrary, I'll leave the part concerning paranormal writers until the end.

Fantasy romance writers, this part is for you. If you've thought up a fantasy world, likely you've realized that your characters don't speak English. But when is it appropriate to add in another language?

In truth, it should only be done as necessary. You decide that, not me. If it furthers the plot in some way, it is necessary. If you have a word in that language which doesn't translate into English, it is necessary. An example would be the name of a certain kind of food, plant, or animal which is completely different from any food, plant, or animal on Earth. The occasional phrase or foreign word can add to the authenticity of your world, but if you add too much, it can become too confusing and your readers will start to put the book down. I'll never forget reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Whether or not it deserves the name of classic, I'll never know. I couldn't finish the first page. The language used confused me too much.

I'm not a linguist, but one thing I can say about your language itself is be consistent. Don't put choppy sounding words in your character's speech if her language sounds melodious. Try out the words on your own tongue first, to make sure they sound good, and try to come up with a rough grammar scheme at least, even if you're only using one phrase. If you're only punctuating your text with a single word here and there, of course you won't need to think about grammar, but otherwise it should be one of your top priorities.

That being said, let me move on to the part of language some of you have been perched on the edge of your chairs waiting for me to explain: slang. Yes, slang. It isn't brilliant, but it is necessary to your story. Fantasy and sci-fi romance writers should create slang based on the atmosphere of their world. Like language, it shouldn't be detrimental. More formal worlds will use less slang and more proper grammar, while slum-like worlds will use more slang and likely swearwords, to boot. But what about paranormal romance writers? You aren't excluded from this, you know. Even if it's only one sentence or two per book, it adds to the feel of a book. Would Lynsay Sands's Argeneau series have had the same impact without the term "feeding off the hoof?" I suppose it is possible, but that one phrase makes the book come to life. If your world has another society (which if it is paranormal, it does), it needs to have some form of language which differs from the real world. Most times, that means slang.


Up next: L. K. Below blogs about how to separate your fantasy or alien world from Earth.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

World Building, Part 5: Religion

Religion is an integral part of any society. Your characters have to have core beliefs in something (not necessarily a deity or way of life). Fantasy romance authors, along with sci-fi romance authors at times, have a tougher time of creating this. They need to build their religion from scratch, as opposed to paranormal romance authors, who—generally—can use pre-existing religions. However, even if you're going to make your character Catholic (or Buddhist, or a member of a fanatical cult), there are other aspects to this post which you might like to keep in mind.

Aside from the question of Church and organized religion, and the question of a deity, there are other things to consider. For one, what supernatural things does this religion believe in? Ghosts? The Undead? If the latter, is it considered unholy, or just another state of being? What about the afterlife—is there a Heaven and a Hell; or maybe just the fact that your being has risen from the dead is considered to be an afterlife.

Then we turn to more mundane things. Is your character superstitious? If so, many superstitions stem from religion. Let's take a simple one as an example. I'm sure most people reading this have crossed their fingers for good luck at some point. Just the action of crossing your fingers symbolizes Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. Nowadays, pop culture has taken over the motion and made it popular, but that is the origin of the motion. And for those of you rolling your eyes with your cursor hovering over the X button, let me move on to my point. If you have a superstitious character, you need to examine that character's religion in order to pick out points you can use to create superstitions. Assuming you aren't going to use pre-existing ones in the first place.

Then, of course, there's the last aspect of religion: the holidays. Which days demand reverence, which demand celebration? Even if you're choosing an existing religion, there might be days your character chooses to celebrate and ones he (or she) does not. Of course, that is true of every character, not just your mythological creatures.

Check back later this week for the conclusion of this mini-series: Language!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

World Building, Part 4: Government

Government is integral to the world you're in the process of creating. Think of how the government affects your life. If you're creating a fantasy or sci-fi world, you need to construct something just as all-encompassing. You need to think about laws, upholders of the law, education, health care and common diseases, the economy and currency, the type of government (how it is run), the extent of control the government has on your world, and other organizations or unions which might be in place.

If you're writing a paranormal romance, this is a little easier. After all, any government will likely be similar to an existing government. But unless your mythical creatures run willy-nilly and do whatever they please (which, I warn, should logically indicate their taking over the world at whim), they need some form of government, some rules which they abide by. In terms of the paranormal world, let me run through each of the above points:

1) Laws

Absolutely, positively, under every circumstance, there must be laws. There must be a reason why your mythological creatures cannot go on a rampage and kill off the human race and/or each other. When making your laws, think of other laws which aren't allowed: theft, assault, etc. One easy way to make your laws is to set them as identical to the setting—let's say Canada or the U.S.A. in the twenty-first century. Already, there is a law against killing, vandalism, theft, etc. Now, all you need to do is add in certain laws of your own as you deem necessary. Perhaps, in the case of vampires, you impose a law that only bagged blood or willing donors can be meals. After deciding your laws, you must also decide a just punishment for breaking them.

2) Upholders of the Law

These are the policemen (whether you call them that or something else) of your world. They are the ones who ensure that any law breakers are caught and receive just punishment. If you have laws (which you should), you also need to have law enforcers.

3) Education

In the case of paranormal romance, this point is mostly moot. Many immortals are only turned at adulthood, at which point they would have already learned the essential things. Many times, immortals take college or university courses in regular human institutions, posing as humans. Then, if something needs to be learned about the mythological creatures themselves, often the main character is given a mentor—which, more often than not, is the main character's love interest.

4) Health Care and Common Diseases

Now, in general, if your mythical creature is immortal, this point is moot. Immortal generally means there are no diseases afflicting your species, and therefore health care is not necessary. However, this is of course depending on what scheme you'd like to have for your mythological creatures. If there are diseases that afflict them, then they should probably have some sort of hospital or special physician to turn to for cures.

5)The Economy and Currency

Now this is one thing which, if you're writing a paranormal romance set in modern day, you don't have to worry about. Any matters concerning economy and currency would deal with whatever country you happen to set your story in.

6)The Type of Government

When you're deciding on the governing force for your mythological species, you need to decide on how it operates. That means you need to think back to any Civics or Law classes you took in high school or post-secondary. I can hear some of you groaning already. Let me make it a little easier. The types of government are:

  • Anarchy—or, in other words, no government.

  • Democracy—this can either be a true democracy, where every member literally gets a say (I read this done successfully by MaryJanice Davidson in her Mermaid series. Every mermaid heard what was said through the telepathy of the king, and they all responded with their vote that way as well) or in a ceremonial democracy, where the leader (many times, with the aid of a group) makes decisions on behalf of the people, but the leader (or leaders, if a council group) is elected into power.

  • Dictatorship—this, as I'm sure everyone knows, is when one person comes into power and rules everyone else, likely with an iron fist and the help of the military. Many people also name this person a tyrant.

  • Monarchy—similar to dictatorship, in that only one person rules, but it is generally with much less discord and less use of force. A monarchy oftentimes listens to the needs of the people by hearing petitions to the crown. A ceremonial monarchy is one in which the monarch participates, but is also aided in decisions by a body of people, such as a council.

  • Oligarchy—this is when a bunch of people get together to rule a country. These people do not need to be elected, and in general, an oligarchy is composed of a few people. A council (the predominant form of government I see in most paranormal romance) is considered an oligarchy if the members are not elected into power, but are perhaps chosen by the person who resigns. I personally consider an oligarchy and a republic to be the same thing. Your government might be considered a plutocracy if after the death of a council member, the highest bidder can buy his or her way into that seat.

  • Theocracy—this is when the head of a religion is the governing head of your species. It automatically applies if your mythological creatures are angels, demons, or minor gods. The ruler would, after all, be (the highest) god.
7) Your Government's Extent of Control

Obviously, in a dictatorship, this would be all encompassing. But what about if there is a council? How powerful is this council? Does only a small percent of the populace actually heed its orders, or do the law enforcers ensure that everyone does? Ultimately, this is up to you. Although, a word of warning: there are always those who try to go against the government, mostly for their own gains, but unless a government controls nearly all of the populace, it wouldn't be a very effective government, would it?

8) Other Organizations

Here's where you can ask yourself what other sorts of organizations there would be. The possibilities are limitless. You could do anything from one to save the environment to one which would clean up after mistakes left by mythological creatures, so as not to spread the word that they exist. Think first of organizations you might need, and then build them from there. It is entirely possible that you won't need any organizations at all, if you build ministries and such into your government.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

World Building, Part 3: Culture

Everyone's culture is different. Whether you create an entirely new world or extrapolate on our existing one, there will be a change of culture, to some degree. But culture is such a broad term. How do you know which sorts of things should be changed or not? describes the word culture as:

  • Anthropology. the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.

  • that which is excellent in the arts, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

But when you're trying to write a story, how are you supposed to narrow it down? A good rule of thumb is to think about everything you would find different if you lived in the U.S.A. or Canada, and travelled to China or Japan—or vice versa. For those of you still mind-boggled by the possibilities, let me walk you through it.

1) The first thing you would notice walking off the plane is fashion. So let's apply that to your story. If you're writing a paranormal romance taking place in modern day, likely your characters will wear the same everyday clothes that you wear. You can base your fashions off what you know. However, it is also possible that they may wear different, exotic clothes for celebrations or ceremonies. Your first step is to ask yourself if your character would ever wear something out of the norm, and why.

2) The next thing you would notice if you were in a foreign city would be the technology. Because technology is so integral to western culture, you would immediately notice if there was a lack of it. Or, conversely, if even more technology was used. But what about your characters? Have they adapted to modern techonology, or do they find things like cell phones to be fairly useless because of, say, telepathy?

3) So you've stepped off the plane, noticed fashion and technology, and now you're feeling a little peckish. What do you have to eat? Often, meal choice varies on location. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you're writing a fantasy romance. Your characters aren't likely to eat watermelon if they're in a desert.

But what about a paranormal romance? Your characters are only going to eat regular foods, like you eat, right? Well, there are two ways of looking at it. First, they do, but let's say your immortal is from Italy. He'll have a natural predilection towards Italian foods, because they remind him of home. Or, if he had a very unpleasant experience, he might shun Italian foods altogether. Another thought is to integrate odd foods into celebrations and ceremonies. For instance, maybe during a vampire wedding the bride and groom drink from a goblet of blood. Even though the rest of their food source is normal (neck-biting or bagged blood) by having this in the ceremony, it adds a certain autheniticity to your story which might otherwise have been lacking.

4) Now we move on to the fun part—etiquette and manners. Here's where your story can really branch out, and you can show the true difference between our culture and the culture of your mythological creature. Even if it's something as simple as your vampire having old-world values, practicing the chivalry of a long-dead time (or conversely, to the historically-minded, thinking women are beneath him), it will add to your story. Or, if you're willing to put in a little more time to produce an entirely new set of etiquette, the addition layer is sure to make

Are you wondering what kind of manners your characters should have? Unfortunately, this time I have no rule of thumb for you. You need to decide what feels right for your characters. But if you're looking for where you can add in exotic manners, let me give you a few ideas:

  • Courtship—don't be afraid to spice things up by adding in a different way to treat women (or men) in a dating atmosphere.

  • Table Manners—perhaps, in an intimate setting, using a fork and knife to eat would be considered too clinical.

  • A means of showing respect—in older times, this was done by tugging on one's forelock or bowing; these days a simple "Sir" or "Madam" and a polite tone will do the trick. How will respect be shown in your world?

  • Touching—some cultures kiss to say hello, some forbid touching. Which will yours follow?

  • Eye contact—similar to touching, sometimes it's encouraged to make eye contact. Sometimes, it's an act of agression. Or perhaps, in your world, it could be a sign of attraction...
And of course, there are many other areas you can explore as well. Think of what situations your characters will be in, and then the reactions they could have should become more apparent. If not, a valued critique partner is always a good person to bounce ideas off of.

5) Back to the topic at hand, stepping off that plane in that foreign country, the next thing you might notice is the arts and entertainment. When you're building a world, there's either got to be something that mirrors that (in its own way), or a complete lack of arts if that's in keeping with your characters' culture. Even if you have mythological creatures, they are bound to have their own literature, if not their own version of theature, dance, etc.

6) The last major point, you likely wouldn't find apparent if landing in a foreign city. That is traditions. These are things that are integral to a community—for instance praying before meals or before bed—but might not be something which is publically shown. Some examples might be in naming a child, celebrating an accomplishment or birth, or mourning a death. Think of certain things that you or your family does, and often you can extrapolate or change those to fit with the needs of your character.

Later this week: Part Four, Government!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

World Building, Part 2: History

No matter how detailed your world is going to be—whether an addition to the modern world or a completely different world of your own—one thing is certain: you need a backstory. History is an integral part of the world. It shapes the present. Therefore, whether first or last, this is definitely something you should be exploring.

You need a creation myth. Not only for the world itself, but also for your mythical species, if paranormal. Once you figure out how they were created—whether they are a separate species altogether, or whether they somehow evolve from humans (for instance, vampires, through the bite), or maybe even both—then you can move on to other pertinent information.

Some important questions to ask yourself are:

1. Were there any wars between this species and humankind? Or maybe even amongst the species itself?

Wars are devastating. They bind people together, they divide them, they could even eradicate entire cultures. Think for a minute about your species. Did they have a hand in any famous wars? Or perhaps they were nearly eradicated—as a species, a former sect, a cherished city. Wars touch people, especially if your character is old enough to have lived through them.

2. In what ways would this species have influenced humankind?

If you're writing a fantasy romance instead of a paranormal romance, this question is moot. After all, you need to figure out completely new turning points in history which have shaped the society in your book. If you're writing sci-fi romance, usually, you can take what has happened so far on Earth, and add to it, until whatever nameless date your story takes place. For sci-fi romances, a certain advance in science and technology (or sometimes recession) is involved.

In most paranormal books, however, this question usually is embodied in the form of the originating myth. Generally, it is due to a slip up on somebody's part that humanity knows what little they do about whichever mythological creature you choose.

However, that being said, there are other ways for your species to have influenced humankind. Perhaps certain historical figures were paranormal—let me give you an example. For humour's sake, let's say Napoleon was a gnome. And once he gained control of France, he decided to war against all the other species who looked down on him, until he was conquered at Waterloo. How would this change history? Well, if the general population didn't know he was a gnome, it wouldn't. Let's say only supernatural creatures know—because after Napoleon was defeated, all other gnomes were captured and made to be the slaves of the other supernatural races. See how something simple like that can have such an effect on the world you're creating?

A good rule of thumb, if you're going to use public figures is this: if they play a role in your story, you would do better to use figures that have been dead for more than 70 years. For one, if they wrote anything, it is now out of copyright. For another, they have been dead long enough that their close friends and relatives are now also dead. Therefore, neither they—nor their kids—have the opportunity to read the story you wrote and become offended at your portrayal. On the other hand, I have read stories in which current political figures are associated with the supernatural. In these cases, the figures themselves don't play a starring role—instead, they are mentioned in passing, or to make a point.

3. How did historical events differ from what we are taught in schools?

Again, this is mainly a question for paranormal romance writers, although those writing fantasy romance might like to think about how the historical events they set down are different from what their characters are taught happens. In the case of paranormal, this usually only concerns the mythological creatures.

In general, they have coincided with humans for thousands of years, and therefore a lot of their history is our history. However, during certain points in this history, other, lesser-known events might have occurred. It is up to you to decide where these are necessary.

I'm going to take a step back and address the fantasy romance writers—or even, to a certain extent, sci-fi romance writers. You have the more difficult task of creating your history from scratch. Here are a few things to think about:

-Civilizations that have lived and died (for sci-fi, existing civilizations which might be eradicated, or unified)

-Slavery—did it ever exist? Does it still exist?

-Alliances—between countries, between species.

-Legends—or in other words, things that may have happened, but likely didn't happen the way it is glorified.

-Significant natural disasters which the world might have lived through

-Advances in technology, and exploration.

-And again, wars and rebellions.

A good rule of thumb is to think about what you know about our history. Analyze why this is important. Once you get down to the root of these questions, a pattern should become apparent to you, one which you should be able to mirror in your world. You don't have to be detailed, but even sketching a quick timeline should help your story seem more vibrant in your readers' minds.

Back to the topic at hand,

4. Who are/were important figures in your world?

For paranormal romance writers, these could be actual historical figures, as mentioned before. On the other hand, this could be the head of the current faction of, say, vampires—or the instigator of a rebellion, in the past or present. Once you decide what has happened in the past, you will be better able to decide who played an important part in it.

For fantasy romance writers, all of these important people will of course be fictional. The same can be said of sci-fi romance writers. While you might be able to point to a well known person in modern society and say, "He/She started it off!" any important personages afterwards would have to be fictional.

That being said, I hope I've given some of you some direction for your world building. Check back next week for the continuation to this mini-series!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

World Building, Part 1: Introduction

If you're asking yourself whether or not you need this mini-series, let me put your mind at rest. If you write paranormal, sci-fi, or fantasy romance, you absolutely do. Of course, you may not need it as much for a paranormal in a modern setting than you would for a fantasy romance, per say. In order to maintain consistency in your story, some degree of world building is necessary. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong. Many speculative fiction authors take years to build up their worlds from scratch. Of course, if your paranormal romance is set in modern day, it shouldn't take you nearly as long. A couple hours or a day at most, if you work at it.

I can hear those doubts bubbling to the surface of your thoughts. Why can't you just make it up while you go along? I'm not going to lie to you. You could. By doing so, you would lighten your workload and piece it together as you write. But you shouldn't. That's how holes are formed. It's easy to miss out on things, by taking it one step at a time. Then, somewhere down the road, one of your readers is going to scratch their head and think: Why are you adding this in here? It could have been mentioned in a previous book! Before you hyperventilate, that's what I'm here for. To make sure you know exactly where those holes might be, so you can plug them up as you go.

In the next couple weeks, we'll be exploring several facets of world building. In order:







I look forward to taking the journey with you!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

GINA GORDON: What Fantasies Are Made Of

What's in a fantasy?

Is it our secret desires? Is it a way of reliving an enjoyable experience? Is it something we use to escape from our everyday lives?

Actually, it's all of the above.

Fantasies are an unrestrained use of the imagination. After all, it's where we harbor the most intimate parts of ourselves—what turns us on, what gets us hot, new things we want to try.

It's our job as writers to dig deep and bring those fantasies to life. Fantasies that you, as a reader, may never utter out loud. Maybe, just maybe, we can even introduce you to a fantasy you didn't even think you were capable of. However, you don't have to be a take-action kind of person in order to enjoy your new-found "interests". The best part of a well-written erotic romance is that it will scoop you up and take you along for the ride as if you were experiencing every passionate kiss and cataclysmic release.

According to Anita Naik, the top six female fantasies are:

-To be taken by a stranger

-To be with someone famous

-To have a threesome

-To have sex with another woman

-To have someone watch

-To be punished/spanked

These fantasies are used over and over again in the erotica and romance industry. Why? They are tried-and-true scenarios that will catch the reader's attention. I've written about three of them myself. But how do we take those fantasies to the next level? How do we make each story unique—by playing the "what if" game. By playing the "what if" game, each writer infuses their own individuality into their work.

I played the "what if" game one morning as I stood in line to buy my coffee and watched a man and woman shamelessly flirt with one another. My mind took a dirty turn and the "what if"s started flying. What if he or she had been eying the other for months? What if this was a planned meeting? What if they left here this very minute and hooked up? Where would they go? And so the idea for my first published work came to fruition. Her Five Favourite Words. An erotic short story about lattes and sex with a stranger.

For me, being free to let my mind wander to sexy places or even dark places is the best part about being a writer. Any time of day, I can vacation to my own little world where sex is not taboo, living out your fantasies is not frowned upon and where there is always a happily ever after.

Thank you, Clara, for having me as a guest.

Gina Gordon

Gina Gordon loves dreaming up exciting characters who find love, and sometimes a steamy encounter, in the most unusual places. Her Five Favorite Words will be released on April 2nd from Breathless Press. Visit Gina's official website at