Because it was Independence Day weekend, the Warrens smoked some ribs and the watched…Avatar? I’m not sure why that was the weekend pick, but we dove into the extended version and I noticed something. . .
James Cameron didn’t skimp on Storyworld. I’m not sure if these extra scenes fell to the cutting room floor, of if I simply didn’t notice them the first time, but in this version, Jake (the human/avatar) wanders the world of Pandora discovering the secrets in numerous scenes that accentuate the wonder of this world—from mushrooms that become flying bugs, to a fluorescent jungle floor, to the brightly decorated reptiles. The extended scenes gave me a glimpse into just how Jake fell in love with this world, and seeing it helped my own journey to love Pandora.
When we think about wordsmithing, we need to consider how we bring our reader into the world of the story, aka, the storyworld. Especially when we’re writing a historical or a fantastical setting, we need to stop and take the time to develop it. So many of my clients have developed strong characters with compelling plots, but when they appear on the page, it feels as if they’re walking around a set, back-dropped by a green screen.
But storyworld isn’t just description. Description steps outside the character to take a snapshot. Storyworld, however, brings us into the world through the eyes of the POV character, showing us how he/she experiences it.
Here are some tricks to building great storyworld:
News: Start with the 5Ws as you look at the world. Where are we, physically in the world? When are we? (time of day, season). Who is in it? What is happening? And Why are we there? (this requires your character to do something, which adds action to the description.)
Observations: Use the 5 senses to bring the story to life. Taste, Touch, Sound, Sight, Smell.
Here’s a beautiful passage from the book I’m currently reading (Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross—if you haven’t read this series, she’s a master at storyworld!)
They rounded the last turn of the trail and saw it, then, the high fieldstone chimney rising above the trees on the ridge, its fat plume of smoke curling over the roof.
The house stood.
He breathed deep in relief, noticing now the other smells of home; the faint rich scent of manure from the stable, of meat smoked and hanging in the shed, and the breath of the forest nearby— damp wood and leaf-rot, rock and rushing water, the touch of it cold and loving on his cheek. They came out of the chestnut grove and into the large clearing where the house stood, solid and neat, its windows glazed gold with the last of the sun.
It was a modest frame house, whitewashed and shingle-roofed, clean in its lines and soundly built, but impressive only by comparison with the crude cabins of most settlers. His own first cabin still stood, dark and sturdy, a little way down the hill.
Smoke was curling from that chimney, too.
She uses the 5 senses to help us experience the season, the smells, the sights—even the taste of coming home and the experience of relief.
Here’s a hint about using the 5 senses: If you don’t know what senses to write about, try making a list of all the possible senses you might experience in a scene like this. Then, when you’re writing you’ll have a word pool to draw from.
Voices: Who else in the scene that could be talking? Or, are their signs, books and other “visual voices” you can add that lends a sense of voice? Hearing a local in the description give is authenticity. Think about the voices you hear at a baseball game—the crowd, the hotdog venders, the cheerleaders, the fan in back of you yelling at you to sit down—they all conspire to bring the scene to life.
Emotion: Every storyworld contains a piece of emotion because it is fed through the lens of a POV character who wants something, who feels something. Embedding emotion into storyworld using symbolism, active verbs and specific nouns aids in creating the emotional layering of the character. It’s almost like cheating because an author simply has to be in the character’s head, and describe the scene in his voice, and we’ll get a glimpse at what the character feels.
Specific Language: Use specific details to bring the world to life. Storyworld that tells us exactly what we’re seeing—rhododendron instead of plants, roses instead of flowers helps us see the world in focus.
Adding storyworld to your novel is not only essential to your scene building but creative, emotional, descriptive storyworld will also turn you into a powerful wordsmither.
Have a great writing week!
Go! Write something Brilliant!