It is a great dream of many writers to create a world so real they can live in it, and this dream is never entirely out of reach for any of us. No matter how inexperienced you are in your field of writing, with sharp imagination and a passion for your story, you will always have what you need to pen something beautiful. Just look at J.K. Rowling and all of the adoring readers of the Harry Potter books. If you have been reading my past articles on the series, you will see I think Rowling is a fantastic writer, but no writer is perfect. Independent journalist and Harry Potter fan Michelle V. Rafter goes as far to say that Rowling’s early writing is “downright pedestrian.” Yet she fell in love with the series just like the rest of us. Even adverb nazi Stephen King can grin and bear the abuse of all those adverbs in dialogue tags throughout the entire series. In fact, he acclaims the books.
“How come she can abuse adverbs and get away with it?” you may ask savagely.
Because the story is brilliant, and her world is authentic. In this article, I’ll be covering one of three world-building techniques I picked up from The Goblet of Fire–everyday living being the first of these.
It should go without saying that a tangible world has tangible things in it. This means that a story needs more than dialogue, plot, and theme. No matter how real your characters may be, your world will not be authentic if there is no flesh on its skeleton. One way to go about “fleshing out” this skeleton is to add items to your book that are (to your characters) commonplace. These items may be substitutes for tools we use in real life, something never heard of, or even something spoofed. A good example is spellotape (see sellotape), something we recognize as an everyday office item, which Rowling has put a spin on to make the wizarding world more realistic than one may think.
Another world-building necessity neglected by many fantasy authors are books.
Books are extremely important. As a writer, you should take into account that most of your audience will be book lovers, and give books a special spotlight in every story. J.K. Rowling went the extra mile by creating a bibliophile with whom her readers can connect as one of the main characters. In the series, Hermione Granger is constantly calling readers to the fact that Hogwarts has a history (she references Hogwarts, a History seven times throughout their first, second, third, and fourth years there). In such an academic setting, there are books around every corner, Magical Water Plants of the Mediterranean being a significant one to Harry’s second task.
Other examples of commonplace and not so commonplace devices in the book are the portkey used to transport wizards to the Quidditch World cup as well as items sold there (Anti-Burglar Buzzer, Mrs. Skower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover, etc.); Dark Detectors in Mad-eye Moody’s office including Sneakoscopes, Secrecy Sensors, and a Foe-Glass; and even Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter’s Quick-Quotes Quill.
To sum it up: When building the setting in which your fantasy story will take place, always remember to include objects reminiscent of those we use in our every day lives–but don’t forget to throw in some wacky inventions of your own!
What devices do your characters use in everyday life? Have you ever invented a new mechanism? Put it in a book! And leave your comment about it below.