Children's Writer's World warmly welcomes a guest blog by Melody Delgado.
Creating a world for your novel can be based upon research, creative thinking, or both. Whether your novel is set in the past or the present day, while the setting doesn’t need to overshadow the basic story, it serves as the backdrop of the story and it needs to be realistic and believable.
When writing historical fiction, in order to form a world that seems real, research is essential. For my recently released YA historical romance, ROYALLY ENTITLED, which takes place in the year 1630, I spent two months researching this time period and seeking clues as to what was happening in Europe at the time. Some of the books I poured over at the library were 700 pages long. These books included information about clothing of the Renaissance period, ordinary occupations, common food items, inventions of the time, and popular traditions.
One interesting point that I found was that the rifle, or caliver, was invented during this time period. It replaced the crossbow and was as popular then as having a smart phone is today. I tried to find a way to include this nugget of information, and the invention of the caliver ends up playing a pivotal role in the story.
A custom of the time that was interesting and surprising was that sometimes royals united themselves in marriage with other royals they’d never even met. A miniature portrait would be sent to a potential suitor and they would decide whether to meet or even wed the person based merely on this small portrait. This particular morsel was too good to pass up, so this tidbit is another key component of my story.
It took me ten months to write the initial skeleton of the story, for a total of one year from the germ of an idea to a completed draft. Once I finished the draft I realized that the story couldn’t possibly take place in an already existing country. I’d strayed away from too many details and true historical events. The solution was to invent my own country called the nation of Brevalia.
It was freeing to not have to hold to the physical description and landscape of a specific country, but to be able to come up with things from my own imagination and experience. Currently, I live in a locale with a river that takes up a large portion of the city and helps to define it. I’d lived in another city with the same river feature, so I knew I wanted to include a river in my story. But I may not have been able to do that if I’d had to stick to the description of a specific European location.
However, many writers choose to write about a part of history as it actually happened and may even include actual historical characters. This method couldn’t work for my story, but whichever road you choose for your historical novel, research is essential in creating a believable fictional world.
Even if you are writing in the present day, which will be the world for my upcoming middle grade novel, OOPS A DAISY, there still need to be specific enough details to ground the reader in the setting of the story. My story takes place in modern day Miami, so the cultural aspects needed to be represented, as well as the favorite pastimes of the people in the city and the actual locations and landmarks found in the area. On the other hand, I did fashion a fictional school for my story to take place in. But details are based on what I’ve observed in modern day magnet schools and ideas I came up with on my own.
I’ve published two picture books and even picture books take place in a ‘world.’ As an author, we can’t leave all this ‘world-creating’ to the illustrator. The setting and tone we want to achieve must be made clear through our characters’ words and actions.
Creating a believable fictional world may still require the writer to be rooted in reality, but there is also plenty of room for using one’s imagination. Let it run free, and see where it leads you.
Melody Delgado has been a published writer since 2000. Her short stories have appeared in national magazines such as AIM (America’s Intercultural Magazine), VISTA, and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE LATINO SOUL. She has published two picture books. TEN ROARING DINOSAURS was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and DO YOU KNOW HOW I GOT MY NAME? was recently published by Little Debbie/McKee Foods.
Her YA inspirational, historical romance, ROYALLY ENTITLED, was released digitally by Clean Reads in May, 2017. It is the first in a three-book series called The Brides of Brevalia. A humorous children’s novel, OOPS-A-DAISY, is coming to print on September 5 of this year and is also the first in a children’s series, The De La Cruz Diaries. It will also be published by Clean Reads.
A short trailer of ROYALLY ENTITLED may be seen here: https://youtu.be/sF3Vx_IJBpo
For more about Melody you may visit her website at: http://www.melodydelgado.com/