Thursday, June 10, 2010

Aspiring Advice: Stages

An aspect of world building isn't simply a matter of creating the stage by which your story will be presented, but in how you will introduce your stage and how your stage will change throughout the course of your story. This week, I'll speak a bit on how to introduce your stage and make it intriguing.

Imagine that you are sitting in an aisle, waiting for a play to start in a fancy opera house. The curtain is closed. The story has yet to start. And then, the curtain is drawn. Right away you see a set or a location--a bedroom or a town square. Modern, period, or future. There might even be people sitting, walking, or doing something. Without saying a word, the stage has been set up for you. You have a good idea of where you are even though the characters haven't revealed any plot. Try and recreate that stage in your writing. Try it sometime. Watch a play and recreate the initial stage with words. It's a good writing exercise. Then, tell your reader where they are, and at the same time, do not give away details that are unnecessary. In other words, don't describe your future stages before you get there.

If you have ever gone to an elaborate stage production, you'd know that there are tons of backdrops, sets and props. What would happen if they're all revealed at once? It would look awkward and boring. However, this is what many first times writers (including myself) end up doing: revealing everything about the stage from the beginning. But it's important, right? Yes, but not that important. When I say "stage," I'm not referring to "plot." The stage is where things happen. Plot delves more into the characters and what they do, not the world in which they live. In other words, if your character is in the corridor of a castle, don't worry about describing all the lands surrounding the kingdom. How does telling your reader about a distant river help our character through the corridor? If the character is not presently there, such details don't matter. Describing them only bogs down the action and your plot. Worry about describing this river later, when your character sees it. The exception to this is if a character speaks of this or other locations, such as, "this is where you need to go now."

Develop your stages and figure out the order in which they will appear and how your plot measures in to the overall setting. This helps keep your writing focused instead of jotting unneeded exposition.

You guys are awesome. Keep it up.
Questions and topics are always welcomed

I'm David, and vitamins are your friend.


  1. I think this is one of your best posts yet! Back when I fist began writing, I was prone to doing exactly what you're advising against. I'd spend several pages at the start of the novel describing the world, the inhabitants, climate, landscape, etc, because I was so proud of what I'd created and I wanted the reader to know EVERYTHING about the setting. It's a nasty writing habit and it took forever to break. Anyways, awesome piece of advice!

  2. Thank you very much, Kate.

    I noticed your recent trip to NYC. Looks like you had a blast. You're well on your way to greatness. I'm sure I could use a lesson or two from you since my writing career hasn't reached your status yet. Again, congratulations and thank you for clicking in.