If you’re going to create a fantasy world or futuristic society, you’d better be prepared to explain it. I know you’re rolling your eyes or saying, “Well, duh, of course you have to explain it.” But it’s not the big stuff that will get you. And the big hurdle is you have to explain it without cutting into the story line too much. You don’t want too much explanation interfering with the flow of the action.
You’re the writer. You live, eat, breathe and sleep this world (or worlds). You know everything from how many suns revolve around it to the name and ancestry of the first emperor of the ruling dynasty. You know the history and you know the motivation behind each and every move your hero and heroine make. And your very closeness to this subject makes it all too easy to leave out something critical.
Here’s a list of things I’ve learned through editing my manuscript and comments made by my editor.
- If you’re not ready to explain a particular characteristic of your world or it’s inhabitants, don’t introduce it. If you introduce it and don’t explain it, you’re going to leave readers with annoying questions. And remember one of your first readers will be your editor. Leaving him or her with too many questions is not good.
- If your hero and heroine share a bond, of any kind, be prepared to explain how it formed and why. If your hero can sense your heroine, explain why. Maybe he took her blood or maybe he’s a psychic. The same applies if your writing a m/m scene or a menage or if the her or heroine has a symbiote. How did they come to be linked to each other? What does this link mean?
- If your hero and heroine share a past, be prepared to go into the details, at least a little. If you’re going to have your heroine spitting venom at him, vowing never to trust him again or threatening to cut off pertinent parts of his anatomy, you need some details. As an avid reader, I can tell you that “They had bad history” just doesn’t cut it. I want to know why she’s so mad at him. Otherwise, it just looks like she’s overreacting.
- If your hero or heroine is shapeshifter, be prepared to explain and describe what he/she can turn into. Be prepared to explain how he/she is different from a human. Do they have markings? What do those markings look like and where are they? Are they ten feet tall? Are they immortal? How long do they live? Do they exude pheromones?
- If you’re going to say it takes a certain number of bites, injections, envenomations or whatever to turn someone from a human into something else, keep it consistent, especially if it’s going to be part of a series. You will be called on it at a later time, if not by your editor, then by a reader who found the mistake.
- If you’re going to use alien terminology, be prepared to define it. (I forget to do this sometimes.)
- If you bring in any history of your hero or heroine’s people, be prepared to explain it and why it’s significant.
That’s it for now.