Tag Archives: setting

How to build an invincible world: Nailing the Setting with @EverlyFrost

Creating book worlds is exciting and fun but can be a complex process of imagination and discovery. Everly Frost’s debut novel is set in an alternate version of today’s Earth where everyone is invincible. While constantly assessing and reassessing the world, there are three questions Everly used to keep on track. Take it away, Everly!

What is the world?

These are the defining characteristics of the world – the essence of what the world is. Once you have a good handle on these, the foundations of the world will fall into place.

Young adult books, Fear My Mortality, Everly Frost, science fictionI found it useful to write these down and refer back to them often. In Fear My Mortality, the major characteristic of the world is that people heal at super fast rates to revive and recover if killed. They’ve had this ability since day one (it’s not an evolution).

All other characteristics will stem from these.

What isn’t in the world?

These are consequences of the world that might cause problems for readers because of real world knowledge, expectations, or perceptions.

For example, a problem with a world where people are invincible is overpopulation. As a solution, I decided that the trade-off for super healing is the inability to have children. Many people can’t and others have only one or two children. This keeps the population stable.

Another problem: are they all vegetarians? No steak dinners if animals are immortal too. This ended up being important. Allowing animals to be mortal meant people are familiar with illness, infection, and medicine, even if it only affects their pets. At one point the main character, Ava, likens herself to an animal because they can die and so can she.

Searching for the problems can be time-consuming but can be helpful too.

Is a little bit of info dump okay?

Gasp! I’m a huge believer in showing a scene and allowing the reader to deduce information from actions, dialogue, and active descriptions, not information dump. But I’ve learned that a little bit of Fear My Mortality, Everly Frost, Mortal Eternity, science fiction, young adult books,straight up information is not only okay but necessary.

Depending on the complexity of the world and its history, readers sometimes need a few informative sentences to know what’s going on. Then they can move on to the important things like … will Ava escape that drone, will she find freedom, and will she forgive Michael for what he did?

I’m still learning and I’m definitely not an expert, but I hope some of these tips and examples are helpful.


About the Author

Everly FrostEverly Frost is the author of FEAR MY MORTALITY. She wrote her first story when she was nine. She grew up in a country town, lived for a while in Japan, and worked for several years in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. Now, Everly lives in Brisbane, Australia, with her husband and two children.

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Scoping out locations for your novel #2: Road Trip! (The Airport)

While I was researching sites in Southern New Jersey, I needed a farm that was close enough to point A and also within 20 miles of an airport.  I found many farms in South Jersey, but one was perfect.  It was right smack dab between the two other locations, and it was surrounded by woods (which I also needed.)

I was alone with the kids that weekend, so I figured we’d make a day-trip out of it.  I didn’t tell them where we were going.  What we did is drive the route that my characters from “Fire in the Woods” would be running. We went in reverse order and visited the airport first.  My oldest son and I jumped out of the car.  At that point, I told him that I was scoping locations for my book.

Yes, the Monomaniacal Middle Grade Reviewer was totally into it.  The two younger ones were already “over it.”

I was a little nervous, because I had already written a lot of my story just from Google Earth and other sky maps.  Would the location be as good in real life?

The first thing that struck me was the chain link fences surrounding the runways.  I guess I should have thought of that.

“No problem,” I whispered.  “The tanks with just run right over those.”

“Tanks?”  my son asked, a big smile on his face.  “What are you gonna do, Mom?”

I just smiled.

He laughed.  “You’re gonna blow it up, aren’t you?”

Yeah, my son knows me pretty well.

I couldn’t get out to the runways, although I probably could have gone inside and asked for a better look, but I didn’t have my business cards or anything.  I could see all I needed, though.  Long runways, surrounded by a thick forest on one side, and a lot of trees on the other… out in the middle of no-where.  It was perfect.

There was something else fun, too.  A big re-fueling tank.  Ah, the joys of hundreds of gallons of gasoline, just sitting there, waiting for me to…

Yeah.  This location was perfect.

We were only there for a few minutes, snapped a few pictures, and then it was off to the farm.  Excited now, I was hoping the farm would be as good.

Have you ever visited a location for your novel?  How did it go?

Lesson Eight from the Manuscript Red-Line: Magically Appearing Items in the Setting

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

This is really more like an amendment to Lesson Seven, but I figured I’d call it out separately, just to make it more clear.  In Lesson Seven, we discussed how important it is to make sure a character has a reason for doing what they do.

Also watch for “convenient” items popping up out of nowhere.  In a recent writers group meeting we discussed this very topic… making sure that a gun doesn’t suddenly appear in the glove compartment of an eighty year old grandmother from Ohio…  Silly things like that.

It is easy for a writer to place an item somewhere convenient…  but remember to give that item a reason for being there.

Example from my own manuscript:

Meagan has a candle in her room in the end of the novel.  It’s very important.  It’s never mentioned before, but I talk about it like it’s always been there.  I  caught mistake after digesting Lesson Seven.   I just can’t let the candle suddenly appear like that, and act like it’s always been there.

Convenient fix by me:  I needed a new chapter near the beginning of the novel, because I needed a place to SHOW that Meagan realizes that Magellan is supernatural.  (This is to avoid a “telly” section later).  I placed the scene in Meagan’s room, and actually used the candle as the driving force for that scene.  It worked wonderfully, and I killed two problems with one chapter in a neat little
package.  (And only about 550 words)

Like magically appearing characters, suddenly appearing items can be distracting, and make you lose credibility.  Give important items a reason for being where they are, and keep your settings fluid throughout your novel.

Lesson Three from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Action Action, where is the Action?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine ?

I’ve heard contradicting opinions on this.  Some people say exposition is important.  Some people say don’t start right out with action because you don’t have a character basis of who to “root for” yet.  Personally, when I’m reading something, I want to be slapped in the face immediately with excitement and fill me in on the boring stuff later.  So, when my BP (Beta Partner) had a story that started with tons of talking and setting, I said, “okay, according to what I’ve read, this is okay,” but, being the good beta partner that I am, I let her “have it” and told her I was bored.  But, all the exposition stayed (with some trimming to six pages).   (I’m not saying she trimmed for me…  I believe she has five beta partners, so I’m sure there were a wealth of comments to revise from.)

 Unfortunately though, the publisher found it to be an unnecessary character study and suggested cutting the first five pages completely.  What was after these five pages, was a brief conversation of a dream that actually had relevance to the story (almost a page long) and then the action started.

The publisher’s commented that the first five pages were not engaging.  What I got out of that, was that they didn’t want to see a few kids hanging out and talking.  They wanted something to HAPPEN.  The story actually does, I must admit, start right where they suggested… The dream is a foreshadowing, and then the action that is the catalyst that changes the MC’s life forever happens right afterwards.

***Always start the story as close to the life changing event as possible***

So, what gets lost in the first five pages?  Well, the set up of the friendship between the two MC’s, which can be played out pretty quickly in the next pages, and (ouch) a lot of setting.  To me, that’s no biggie, but my BP is a big setting person.  She likes her imagery.  Now she needs to work in her sweeping mansion and grounds into the action scenes or between them.  It will be a little work.

Moral of the story:  Setting is important, but not too much up front.  Make sure something happens in the first page or so to drag your reader in.

Also see my post on how I changed (and am still changing) my first page after a contest judge didn’t find my first page exciting enough— and there was hardly any setting there at all!

Go back and make your first few pages ROCK!  If you don’t excite the reader right away, they might put your novel down and buy something else.  **GACK**