How do you build the world you already live in?

The first time I met the term "World-building" I wondered what it meant. I play lots of board games with my sons, so perhaps world-building meant the art of setting up rules so a game wouldn't be too easily lost or won. I watched my sons play lots of computer games and wondered if world-building was the writing of long lines of computer code to model the buildings, hills and roads. I read a lot of science fiction too. Is world-building the task of adding science to imagination so a new world makes sense? In historical fiction, is it the art of convincingly depicting a distant time? And in the present day?

The present day surely is what it is and doesn't need to be built. But what makes a reader believe in a novel? What creates that willing suspension of disbelief, that leaves us thinking these people lived real lives when we know they didn't? What keeps us turning pages to see what happened next to someone who never really existed?

I guess I'm convinced now that world-building is a part of every fiction, whether board game, computer game, book, movie, opera or more. World-building decides which pieces are needed to create a convincing whole. On the stage, where the whole won't fit, world-building dresses the set. In opera where the dialog's tuned to music, world-building dresses the notes with honest emotion. And in a novel of a present-day average widow falling in love, world-building adds those details that make me believe, she's human, she's real. Then I might care.

So here are some book reviews of titles set in the real world, in the present day. How real the world and characters seem might be a way to measure the author's world-building. So find coffee and see what you think. Meanwhile remember the ratings are there to help you know which coffee to drink as you read.

A Ripple In The Water by Donna Small invites readers to question preconceptions about rules of love and attraction. Can an older guy love a younger woman? Can an older woman love a younger guy? And how does the love of a parent learn to let go? Great details anchor this story in present day people and activities. Complex soul-searching invites the reader to search their own soul too. And a pleasingly honest relationship proves complex and hard to achieve. Enjoy this tale with some well-balanced, smooth, full-flavored three-star coffee.

A wonderful sense of place and weather anchors Aaron Paul Lazar's The Seacroft in the present day too, as two employees at a coastal mansion try to unravel the mysteries of their feelings for each other, loss and betrayal, and a curious employer who's husband is far from home. Sensual, with some serious but nicely drawn sex scenes, it's a story of love in its various forms, trust through all its betrayals, and hope; best enjoyed with a well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Fairy Tale Murders by Kelly Money is set in present day Topeka. While I don't know the location and have never worked in a crematorium, the author's attention to detail makes me sure she knows both well. But details in the lives of every soon-dead victim somehow didn't make me feel for them. I'm not sure what that says about me. There's a nice contrast between strong female protagonist and women viewed as helpless by the killer. But there's a heavy darkness in this novel, so drink some bold, dark, intense five-star coffee as you read.

Khawla’s Wall by Andrew Madigan is set in the present day too, but in a very different part of the world, where women are veiled, poor men send money home to their families, and "wasta" is the hand that guides every aspect of life. The author brings his world and characters to vivid life, giving serious depth to their emotions and concerns, and offering a powerfully convincing glimpse behind veil and wall, as a young married woman takes the risk of a job, and a young man builds the wall she will hide behind. Enjoy this rich, elegant tale with a rich elegant four-star coffee.

Then come back for some science fiction reviews, coming soon.


Have you read "Checking On Culture, an Aid to Building Story Background" by Lee Killough? I highly recommend it.
Sheila Deeth said…
I've not, but it wounds intriguing:

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