...it helps if you've been there. Since there are no tours to Tasmarin, or Elizabethan England - particularly the versions with elves, demons and magic - not even a Slow Train to Arcturus, we've got to make it feel like we've taken that journey.
That means artistic verisimilitude, better known in writing circles as the telling detail or Heinleining. Sarah's posted about this a few times, particularly how the one right detail can bring a huge amount of extra "baggage" with it, filling in great big chunks of world-building without anyone knowing you're doing it. It's knowing what the right detail is that's the interesting part.
I've spent a good chunk of the last couple of years focusing on getting the details in and making my writing feel real, because I have a sad tendency to drift towards the curse of talking heads in empty rooms. The way I did this - which I'm offering for discussion, analysis, whatever - was before I started a scene, I'd think about what information needed to go in, where this was happening (what it looked like, smelled like, warm cold or neutral temperature), what was happening to whom and what they thought and felt about it. Then I wrote it. And often micro-edited as I worked to get the right details in.
Then the latest brightshinyhappynew novel dropped in (the epic fantasy with vampires - who are not sparkly) and made me write enough of it to build a clear link to the world and the characters. And I realized to my considerable shock that the Heinleining was happening more or less without conscious input from me. I wasn't working to make the environment real and solid, it was just happening.
So, just to show the evolution, I'm going to splat a bunch of openings in - from the earliest to the most recent, one or two paragraphs apiece. The earliest was written about 2 years ago, give or take. The first two are finished, then there's 60k, 50k, 10k (I chose to write that much then outline it for a proposal) and 20k. Now that I've got the outline done for the steampunk, I'm going back to the space opera to finish it. ConSensual, alas, will need to wait until ConVent finds a home.
And ConVent, naturally enough, starts this set of openings.
Another convention, another con hotel. After a while, they blur together into an indistinguishable mass of faux-elegance and bizarrely costumed fans. I usually go in what you could call Olde Worlde Vampire - three piece suit, John Lennon glasses, cane with a pewter wolf-head topper. Take Gary Oldman in that appalling Dracula movie, and you have the basic idea, except I wear black and my hair is darker. And short.
About 6 months later, I wrote the opening of Impaler. This one is a little different because it starts with Vlad explaining himself, so the grounding is in personal rather than in physical details.
Always before battle begins I am possessed by the need for solitude and prayer. It is a curious thing, for I have never fought as merely another knight. I first ruled men at the tender age of eighteen, when the old Ottoman Sultan Murad and his son Mehmed still thought I could be a Turk puppet.
The next opening, for ConSensual, I wrote early this year. This one is about 60k of probably 90-100k done, but until ConVent finds a home or the characters wake up and start nagging, it'll probably stay where it is.
Nothing says you've left normal reality like walking into a hotel lobby and seeing a Clone Trooper chatting with a Sith Lord. The sign on the back of the Clone Trooper's armor, 'Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies. Tonight. Room 1226', was really just corroborating evidence.The next of the partials, Long Haul, is at about 50k and was started around mid-year.
Jack McClatchkey strode through the airlock before the iris finished opening, stepping over the partially retracted lens. He didn't so much as hesitate at what the clean-room -- which served Galway Mining Station as a customs inspection station and extra storage the thirty days of the month there wasn't a ship docked here -- held. It was one of the many things he'd learned from his dad before the old man bought it rigging emergency repairs in an uncharted branch off the wormhole lines. You never let anyone official see you sweat unless you wanted them to think you were scared.The steampunk, tentatively titled Light Through a Harsh Lens, has about 10k written and a 5k outline - I'm considering sending this as a proposal. This was started mid-yearish. This I think is about when I started to really get the hang of the Heinleining skill.
Soft light from a tinted glass tube lit the Apprentice Day Board. Cleaner and less harsh on the eyes than gaslight, it was one of the many benefits even the newest apprentices of the Society of Artificers enjoyed.
And finally, the brightshinyhappynew! epic fantasy with vampires, Blood Oath, where it all seemed to just click into place. I've written about 20k of this one.
"Where is my son?" Lord Karras s'Daria Ashleon glared around the Great Hall with narrowed eyes, his lips drawn back into a snarl that showed his fangs.Having reached the point where this happens as I write it, I'm wondering what the next step is going to be. One thing I've worked out is that everyone learns the skills in a different order, and can have several different ones all snap into place more or less at the same time. Maybe it'll be "how to get submissions out" - I'm very bad at that part.
What are some examples of books that show an author building their skills? Sarah's mentioned the differences between the various Heinlein books, and with PTerry's Discworld books there's a clear evolution from Color of Magic through Unseen Academicals. So who else, and what is it that's growing?