Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blog Tour Featuring Maria Zaninni

Hi all! I'm giving the blog over to Maria today as part of her blog tour to market her new book: Apocalypse Rising. Without any further ado, I'll let Maria's words do the talking.

Subtle World Building

I think the hardest thing for a writer to do when world building is remaining invisible. When I read, I don’t want to feel the author over my shoulder. I don’t want to see the footprints of the creator.

Have you ever read a scene where your eyes start to glaze over and you found yourself skimming ahead to the ‘good parts’? Whenever that happens to me, I ask myself: Why did I skip ahead? What did the author do to lose me here?

Often times, it was too much narrative, description, introspection or dialog. It forced me as the reader to become aware of the author and what s/he was trying to accomplish.

As the author, I don’t want you to know I exist. I don’t want to be on your radar. If you’re not immersed in the story, then I’ve left too many of my footprints and failed you.

When an author intrudes on the story, it makes the reader feel as if the author doesn’t trust him to ‘get it’. I’d rather err on the side of caution and say too little to keep you intrigued, than say too much and destroy the fantasy.

Every once in a while I come across a complex scene in my books where I want to explain more, but I try to resist the urge to intervene. Though I’ll run the risk that some readers won’t get it, I’m betting most will. And those are the people I’m writing for.

So what makes the author obvious in his world building?

• Describing too deeply—or too often.
Solution: Tell the reader only what he needs to know at that moment in the story.

• Authorial intrusion—where the author explains something the character knows so well that it would never come up in a normal conversation or narrative.
Solution: Whenever you need to explain a bit of world building to the reader, use lateral moves. In the first Harry Potter book, many times the reader learns about Hogsworth at the same time Harry does. We are moving through the story together.

• Explaining something the character wouldn’t know, but the reader needs to understand.
Solution: Say I want to explain a device that sends subliminal messages. Rather than delivering a long physical account, show the effects. The character could start perspiring, his eyes will flare and he’ll rub his temples vigorously as if he were trying to rub something out. Little by little the reader will start to piece things together—without the dreaded info-dump.

Aim for the art of subtle narrative, to be so invisible that you leave no footprints—only clues.

Do you ever skim when you read? Can you recall why you did?

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels. 

Apocalypse Rising blurb: The only place to hide was in the past. Leda and Grey have one chance to escape a madman and that’s through a portal to a time before the apocalypse. But nothing has prepared them for 21st century culture, and every misstep draws them closer to the End Times. The world is teetering on extinction, and they may very well be the cause of it.

Warning: Dark demons, Elementals, witches, and a hero with one woman too many. 

Apocalypse Rising is the sequel to Touch Of Fire. I hope you’ll try them both.

Follow me on my blog: http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mariazannini

Thanks again, Maria. Best of luck with the rest of your blog tour!

Anyone have issues when describing your worlds? How do you solve them?


  1. My writing tends to start out by laying the scene for the reader, but during a Read and Critique at Pennwriters Conference, an editor and publisher both suggested I start immediately with the action. Maria's advice for the authorial intrusion will help me rectify the minor hiccup. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a problem of mine. I forget to get out of my heronines head to give the reader a break from her thoughts. I'm trying to do it in beat - 5 to 1 or something like that. Great post - Following both Maria and Misha. Shah from wordsinsync. X

  3. Hi Laura! Getting the reader involved right from the start is excellent advice. It's important to make it the reader's story and not the author's. Thanks for stopping in!

  4. Misha: Thanks again for letting me visit your wonderful blog. :-)

  5. Shah: I like your idea of using a beat. Eventually, it'll become intuitive. You'll know when to step in and out of the character's perspective as the need arises.

  6. Excellent post Maria! I've been worrying about the world building, or lack there of in my current WIP, thanks for this.

  7. Yay good post! I think i capture subtlety like 50% of the time in my first draft. Then it's time to revise the rest

  8. You left no "footprints" for me Maria and there were plenty of places where you could have "stomped" all over Apocalypse Rising but didn't!

  9. For me the trick is finding the intersection of action, character and world. If I can place the pov character culturally in the world, then that person's reactions to ongoing events (actions and judgments) will imply aspects of the world. I also make sure to restrict myself to the most relevant worldbuilding elements, and to keep them out of the main clauses of sentences so they will slip in in the background.

  10. Raelyn: Glad you found it helpful.

    Sarah: Revision is my friend. :)

    Jackie: Thank you! That's a great compliment.

    Juliette: It's a fine balancing act and not as easy as it looks. Thanks for stopping in.

  11. Great post, Maria. I like the troubleshooting part, it's very useful. I think in sf and fantasy writing in particular the world-building is a joy to do, but there certainly are pitfalls to be avoided.

  12. Thank you Misha and Maria - some excellent points here and advice that I'll paste into my reference folder.
    I'm currently reading a fantasy novel whose author has overloaded the geography to such a degree that I'm past caring which way is North!
    Thanks again.

  13. I hope both of them are available in Kindle form at Amazon. I will check it out. Great post today.

  14. Tony: In many ways, world building defines fantasy and SF.

    Margo: Don't you hate when that happens? I've put down many a book that takes too long to get to the point.

    Odie: You can find them both on Amazon. As a matter of fact, Amazon usually has the best discount on them.

    Thanks for popping in, all

  15. Thanks so much for this post, Maria....and Misha, of course! (: You're so right about skipping ahead. I do it when the description become too much. As you said, I want to get to the good parts! lol

  16. One reason I don't read a lot of Science Fiction (instead leaning toward fantasy) is because Sci Fi tends to get WAY to technical, to the point I feel like I'm reading a text book.

    What you said makes lots of sense. Now ... to put it in practice! :-)

  17. EC: If I skip, someone somewhere doesn't get his wings. :)

    Marianne: There's a lot more to world building than you can put in a post, but I've found if you can scale back on info-dumping, half your battle is won.

  18. I agree, Maria, info dumping is really what kills the atmosphere. The key lies in transmitting the information that the reader can figure out the situation on his/her own. :-)

  19. Misha: I think it's more rewarding for the reader to gather the information like an experience rather than get it dumped on them like a college history class.

  20. It's so tedious when you see this in published novels. Elmore Leonard said never begin by describing the weather. I just started a Joe Abercromby book where the first paragraph describes the sky...I persevered up to a reference to clouds being a 'butchered pink'...finally dropping out on page two as political exposition and strange names jostled for place. I think description does have a place. I love Cormac McCarthy's 'Border Trilogy' but there you fall in love with the words as much as the story. Does that make sense?

  21. Mike: Absolutely. I always feel that way about your writing. :) The words are so lovely, I just want to read them over again.


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