There are a million and one ways to build a world, and dozens of articles which will give you specific pointers about how to dive in. This isn't one of those articles: instead, my goal here is to help you build a world that you want to write about, because then the actual writing part is pretty easy. It's not as hard as it sounds, and can be used in any setting (historic western, dystopic futuristic sci-fi, etc.).
The secret sauce? Living in the details. I've got three examples for you below - how to embrace your settings, how to give each character (no matter how large or small) their due, and how to embrace the things which don't quite make sense.
National Novel Writing Month is a nonprofit organization that hosts an annual writing challenge in the month of November (#NaNoWriMo....don't ask me, I didn't make up the acronym). The goal is to have more people write in general: if you write 50,000 words in the month of November, you're a NaNoWriMo "winner" that gets bragging rights.
In the Writing Community, NaNoWriMo is a big thing that everyone has opinions about - some people love it, some people hate it. I personally had never done NaNoWriMo before, despite spending a lot of my spare time, well, writing. This year, I've been spending even more time than normal writing since my first book comes out next month, but I'm also a glutton for punishment.
I don't write young adult books (yet!), but the above bingo board made me laugh because of the hints of truth which shine through. These common patterns in media (movies, TV shows, books, etc.) are known as tropes, and are more commonly known as cliches. Looking at the bingo board above, I can think of half a dozen YA books which check off several of these boxes (Twilight, anyone?).
However, despite the constant advice writers get to avoid tropes, they can be useful. For the reader, tropes help us figure out what types of books we like and dislike. For example, maybe you're not looking for a book like Game of Thrones, where everybody is both good and evil, you prefer the more traditional battle of the Big Bad and the Ultimate Good. That's not a bad thing at all, it just means the author has to be creative about finding a way to deliver the trope where readers are still interested, and can't simply predict the outcome of the book twenty pages in.
There are dozens of excellent articles outlining tropes in fantasy (one of my favorites is here). This is not that kind of blog post. Instead, my goal is to share some strategies to using tropes effectively in your writing, to keep the reader guessing.
I get it. Since about 6th grade, people have been telling you to write down your ideas, in order, before you actually start writing a draft. This advice applies for any kind of writing: essays, articles, blogs (ahem, perhaps why mine wander a little - busted!), books....you name it, you can (and should) probably outline it.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!