December 6, 2011

First Snow - Thoughts on the Natural Side of Fictional Story Worlds

This morning I woke up, pushed my sleeping dog off of my sleeping foot, and looked out the window to see - snow!
After two weeks of the local weatherman predicting the first snow, it's finally arrived! My transition into the Christmas spirit suddenly feels completed (and I have the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's song 'First Snow' going around in my head). I'm not the only one who's excited about it, either. No sooner had I dressed and made my morning cup of tea than my friend Ashley called me, asking if I had looked outside yet and wasn't it exciting? (And yes, I know you northerners out there are probably already sick of snow for this year... but please bear with me.)
Aside from getting me all revved up for Christmas and caroling and baking and all of that, this first snow also got me thinking about the more natural side of world-building in our stories. As I edit Son of the Shield, I've been adding in little bits and pieces to flesh out the natural story world I rather neglected in the first couple of drafts. I've added in varieties of flowers and other plants, constellations, and weather patterns unique to that story world.
But the shared excitement over this first snow got me thinking about the other natural events that we humans tend to get excited about - the first sign of green grass and flowers in the spring, the first weekend warm enough to go swimming, geese flying south and the first sign of autumn color in the leaves - and made me realize that my story world contains virtually none of that.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that a lot of the time in fiction, unless something in the natural world plays a significant role in the plot, it gets ignored. I don't want that to happen in Son of the Shield, so this morning I've been starting to think of ways I can bring the natural side of the world of Reyem to life. I realized that through the entire story (which spans a year and a half of their time) there is not a single mention of it raining. So there's one problem in need of fixing. It's not a desert, so it has to rain sometime.
But in addition to that, I'd like to come up with some natural events that the people of Reyem look forward to, like our first snow... or even something they dread, like we dread the thermometer hitting 100 or 0.
So that's something new that I'm going to be working on developing in my story world. So much to think about, so much to develop. It's a wonder any novel ever gets finished.

What is your approach to the natural realm of your story world? What are some natural events that your characters might look forward to, or dread?


  1. I'm writing a story about an author whose character comes to life (so original, I know), and she's terrified by her first storm because she's never heard thunder before. He never once mentioned thunder in her book. Or butterflies. :)

  2. We haven't had snow yet ...but as a native New Englander I can sympathize with those who had snow days in October...
    I recently finished putting a couple of my characters through a rainstorm that lasted several days, and one of my countries is located in an area similar to the Arctic Circle, but other than that I haven't gotten very creative. ;)

  3. Lostariel: That's very cool that the character wouldn't know what something was just because the author never mentioned it. I like the idea!
    Tahl: I don't think I've ever read about a fantasy country set in an Arctic Circle-type environment. That sounds really awesome!
    You both need to hurry up and get these stories published so I can read them!

  4. I still need to work out where my people are so I can snow them in for at least a month.


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