Without getting into our word substitutions exercises, I want to give you Lester’s
view on craft. Mainly . . . research. So, I’ll start with his words, and add mine.
Unique locale? Easy. Selecting one that fits in with the murder method and the
treasure--thing that villain wants--makes it simpler, and it's
also nice to use a familiar one, a place where you've lived or worked. So many
pulpateers don't. It sometimes saves embarrassment to know nearly as much about
the locale as the editor, or enough to fool him.
Here's a nifty much used in faking local color. For a story laid in Egypt, say,
author finds a book titled "Conversational Egyptian Easily Learned," or
something like that. He wants a character to ask in Egyptian, "What's the matter?"
He looks in the book and finds, "El khabar, eyh?" To keep the reader from getting
dizzy, it's perhaps wise to make it clear in some fashion, just what that means.
Occasionally the text will tell this, or someone can repeat it in English. But it's a
doubtful move to stop and tell the reader in so many words the English
The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book, finds the
Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and readers into thinking
he knows something about Egypt.
In this day and age, you can take a virtual tour of just about any locale, if not
more. That’s the reason behind Google Earth, Google Maps, get down to street
level, right? What do you see? What might you hear and smell? How does the grit
feel under your feet?
Movies, documentaries, and picture books not available seventy, eighty years ago
can also add to your descriptions. The main thing is to do your research. There's
more than enough great stuff out there, all you have to think about are the sounds
and smells, and feel, each street may have.
For the imaginary world, one that doesn't exist on this Earth, know it in your head.
Draw a crude map, just for you. Label the streets in a town, and maybe the
businesses there. Do what you must to know what's where. Think touch, sight,
sounds, smells. If it's real in your mind, it will be real for the readers.
Here’s the thing. Today’s movies, they have crafted fantasy worlds, and things
work thanks to the many, many minds that have added to these creations. What do
they mean to you? What are the elements you need (and if it was organic, the
connective tissue involved) to make your world-building work?
You give your creations life. You do it with words.
Now think about how you use description. People, readers, they know what
ordinary mundane things look like, and they can and do use their imaginations.
In a fantasy world, here’s where you can get creative. If your world is unique, get
descriptive. Paint that picture in your reader’s head, using your words.
Yes, I got a smaple up. And then I realized my error, and got my sample up and
running . . . It’s like every typo you see, you hold it against me . . . fuckers . . .
Show your support for indie authors. Don’t hesitate to read a sample, and
actually buy. It’s the only way to find out how the story ends.