WORLD BUILDING THROUGH CHARACTERIZATION
by Rebecca Zanetti
As authors, sometimes we’re so organized we miss the boat. We might have our worlds all prepared, and all of our characters developed, but we forget that the world impacts the characters, and more importantly, the way the characters see the world around them reveals not only the world but more about the characters themselves.
Remember that old fable of the traveler? There’s a guy who’s on a road in the middle of nowhere, and he meets a family and asks about the town up ahead. The woman in the family says that it’s a horrible town, that people don’t like each other, and that bread is too expensive, so nobody eats bread. The traveler continues on and meets another group of people and asks about the town up ahead. The woman says that it’s a wonderful town with terrific people who support each other. Right now there’s a terrible shortage of yeast, so bread is in small supply, but they hope that changes.
Same town, and the descriptions of the town reveal more about the women the traveler spoke to than the town itself.
Much like all of us live in slightly different realities, so will your characters in the same book. Anybody watch Supernatural? I think it’s one of the best-written shows on television (other than the disconnect between seasons seven and eight, which really needs to be fixed), and the characters live in an entirely different world than most people see.
Dean Winchester is a tough guy, sweetheart, hero. He’s a fantastic anti-hero, really, and he fights monsters regularly. There was an episode where he and his brother, Sam, were thrust into an alternate reality where there were no monsters. Who was Dean Winchester without things to hunt and kill? Not the same guy at all—not even close, and certainly not a hero.
The actors who play Dean and Sam are great friends, and even they struggled with that episode because it wasn’t who they were. (Yes, I’m a dork who listens to the commentary in special features of shows. You learn a lot about writing there. Honest.)
So, for a fun and quick exercise, go to your current work in progress, and take two or more characters and put them in the same scene. Describe the scene, the world around them, the problems, the benefits, and anything else you think of from the POV of each character. It probably won’t be a scene you ultimately use in your book, but you might be surprised by what it reveals about each character.
As always, have fun with it!
BLURB: Mercury Striking Releases on January 26th:
With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynne Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynne is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury…
Danger has never looked quite so delicious…
BIO: Rebecca Zanetti is the author of over twenty-five dark paranormals, romantic suspense, and contemporary romances, and her books have appeared multiple times on the New York Times, USA Today, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks bestseller lists. She lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her own Alpha hero, two kids, a couple of dogs, a crazy cat…and a huge extended family. She believes strongly in luck, karma, and working her butt off…and she thinks one of the best things about being an author, unlike the lawyer she used to be, is that she can let the crazy out. Her current series are: The Dark Protectors, The Maverick Montana Cowboys, and the Sin Brothers series. Upcoming series are: The Realm Enforcers and The Scorpius Syndrome. Find Rebecca at: www.rebeccazanetti.com