I won’t pretend to be an expert because, frankly, I’m yet to finish writing one but I’ve planned out a couple, so here’s a real basic check list.
- Culture, this is important whether you are setting this in the real world or in a high fantasy setting. Your character’s culture will affect the way they act in relationships, their ethics, manners, language- it plays a massive role in making a character and world which has depth.
- Religion, just like culture, religion is very important and faith can be a huge motivator for your character or plot.
- History, even if you never intend to mention it, the history of your world is just as important as your character’s own personal history.
- Ethnicity, again whether in a realistic setting or not, this is an important thing to consider, it may change how characters interact and create conflict. For example, in the Ember in the Ashes, with the Scholars and the Martials.
- Where in the world it is set, either in the real world, or within the map of your fictional world. A strong sense of setting lies in a strong sense of place.
- When is it set, a strong sense of the narrative’s place in time is important. I’ve read too many books with a medieval, high fantasy setting, where one of the character’s uses the word ‘dude’… I don’t think authentic medieval language is necessary but still, it’s a small detail worth paying attention to.
- Discrimination and prejudice, does your world have it? In what way?
- Appearance, sounds real basic, I know but inconsistent character descriptions are extremely annoying to a reader, or worse, when there’s nothing at all until your half way through and it ruins the idea you’ve built in your head.
- Personality, again, seems like an obvious one but you need to establish WHO your character is without resorting to tropes (i.e grumpy one whose always grumpy and has no other facets).
- Personal history, i.e. their back story and this goes beyond their ‘tragic backstory tm’, you need to think about their family, friends, their interests before the events of the books, have they had partners before? And how has all of this shaped who they are now?
It’s important to think about how these things will play into how they interact with the world around them.
And finally, the next thing to consider is where these two aspects of building your story overlap, interact with and affect each other.
What are the magic’s limitations?
What are the rules?
How does someone access the magic?
What makes someone good or bad at it?
Does the magic in your world feed into, or create any of the cultural, religious or ethnicity factors above?
How does the magic affect who your character is as a person?
How does that play into your world’s history
Point of View
So, I go in depth about the various POVS you can try in this blog.
But to summarise:
First Person: This is an intimate style of narration using first person pro-nouns (I/ we), from this POV the reader will only know what the narrator knows.
Second person: This style of narration uses second person ‘you’ pronouns but is pretty uncommon in novels.
Third Person: This is one of the most common styles of narration, using third person she/he/they pronouns
–Third person omniscient– This narrator knows everything and can switch between all characters thoughts and feelings.
–Limited third person: This is when the narration sticks to one characters POV, so the reader only knows this particular characters thoughts, feelings and viewpoint of events.
The point of view you pick can change a lot about the tone and stye of your book. It changes how you will present the world and character building aspects above, as well as how you manipulate the plot and narrative.
Telling the story in past or present tense can change a lot. If it’s in past tense, how much does the narrator know from the position in the future? How will that affect how they tell the story? If it’s in present tense, is your narrator discovering the events as they happen, or are they telling them to the reader in the present tense, from the POV of the future…
It can be another powerful tool in your arsenal as a story teller.
Plot vs Narrative
There is a difference between your plot, which is the sequence of events underlying your story’s structure and the narrative, which is the telling of your story.
This is how you subvert your readers expectations, create plot twists and conflict. There needs to be some dissonance between what your readers knows and what your over arching plot is.
So there you go, just some starting blocks for when your outlining because, trust me, going back to write them in is a pain!