Worlds within Worlds by Janine M. Donoho

Horton Hears a WhoDon’t you simply love Dr. Seuss’s HORTON HEARS A WHO? For me the story served as a watershed event as I grappled with string theory and quantum mechanics. HORTON also informs my approach to storytelling.

We writers yearn to create places that we’ll miss when we’re away. To finish our stories, our worlds need to cause a relentless itch that brings us back each and every day. Once we finish our stories, we intend that our readers find our world-building irresistible, too.

To engage our audience, certain features prove vital. Primarily our readers need to suspend their disbelief. That means seamlessly arranging entire worlds of physical systems, societal taboos and mores throughout a complex landscape. Let’s make this our starting point.

My foundation in MISTBORN CHRONICLES? A bucolic world lacking in magic and advanced science. When the curtain MB Bk 1 Kindle Coverbetween worlds rips open, wild magic invades like a viral attack. Ah, you recognize ‘the call to adventure’? Rather than revisit what others like Joseph Campbell and Vogler explain so well, let me focus on the aspect that proves most interesting to me—the ‘what if’ game.

So my friends, time to put on your critical-thinking-hats. Begin with the magical influx…

What if certain species and individuals prove genetically sensitive to transformation? What if some cannot mentally or biologically handle the change? What if the one person who understands the linkage between science and magic has lost her abilities and is trapped in this world? What if her skills make her suspect? What if she cannot diagnose the harm done to her without cueing a rapacious predator to her location? What if a master merchant, who sees himself as average and anything but heroic, finds himself a repository of the extraordinary?

You see how this process works? This drama continued for over 1500 manuscript pages. Yes, a series was born. The trick? How to apply this ‘what if’ practice to each level of conception, including species’ physiology and cultures along with suites of universes bumping up against each other.

We writers set the rules, then play within those parameters. Otherwise our readers cannot suspend their disbelief. If we fail, they’ll toss our stories across the room in exasperation. As an abused reader, I learned this response firsthand.

Many books take us into their worlds, shape us, then ensnare us as return visitors. For me, Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, Guy Gavriel Kay’s FIONAVAR TAPESTRY, Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN, Patricia McKillip’s RIDDLEMASTER OF HED and George R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (1st three novels) exemplify mastery. First came my appreciation for these stories along with a willingness to immerse myself in them. Later I returned to read them more analytically. Even now, I lose myself in their preeminence.

So what’s your key approach to world-building? How do suspend your reader’s disbelief?Horton's Who Flowers

Magical Thinking – Part II by Janine M. Donoho

Nina Sophia’s 1st Snowfall – A New World

Don’t you simply love building your own worlds? Whether visual, oral or written, we yearn to create a place we can return to habitually. During the writing process, we must go into this world each and every day. Thus it must be a reality that causes a relentless itch while also satisfying us. As writers, we hope that readers feel the same. While this process comes across as somewhat magical in itself, my premise is that for our worlds to engage an audience, they need certain features. Foremost, you need to disengage your readers’ critics. That means seamlessly arranging an entire world of physical systems, societal taboos and mores, along with rules throughout the entire landscape.

In biology, an ability to see systems comes in handy. Skill in diagnosing a habitat for likely damage, and even failure, can mean the difference between actual life and death. Thus, you need your starting point. Chris Vogler likes to call this the ordinary world. My foundation in MISTBORN TRILOGY begins with a bucolic world without magic. Then, when the curtain between worlds rips open, wild magic invades like a viral attack. Ah, the call to adventure. Rather than revisit what others like Joseph Campbell and Vogler have done so well, let me focus on one aspect, which for me proves the most interesting. That would be the game of ‘what if’, which depends upon critical thought processes.

What if certain species and individuals are genetically sensitive to transformation with the influx? What if others cannot handle the change successfully, either mentally or biologically, as in a cancerous mutation. What if a person who understands the inherent linkage between science and magic, yet who had lost her capability to network, is trapped in this world. What if her abilities are suspect and worse yet, she cannot diagnose the world’s damage without cueing a rapacious predator as to her location. What if a master merchant, who sees himself as quite average and anything but heroic, suddenly finds himself a repository of the extraordinary.

You see how this ‘what if’ game gets played? For me, the play went on for over 1500 manuscript pages. Yes, a trilogy was born. Of course, this process works at every level of conception, including development of species’ physiology, cultures, and even entire universes of worlds juxtapositioned to each other with little to no awareness of the grander scheme. Oh, other than an entire species of beings that travel between, although mostly for scholarly reasons.

The same process goes into the best of other forms of fiction. The parameters for my contemporary fantasy CALLING DOWN THE WIND again started with a societal outsider. Yes, it’s a recurring theme. In this case, a young woman reaches puberty just as a genetic toggle switches ‘ON’. Rue becomes preternaturally connected to natural cycles and beings. Of course, she believes she’s going mental. Her reality issues from a potentially untrustworthy point-of-view. Yes, she’s a teen, yet readers believe in Rue and her journey. Why? Because the rules of her world work according to how she sees it. Then, as she gains confidence in her abilities, so do readers.

You see, we writers set the rules, then play within those parameters. Otherwise, our readers, who we adore, stop suspending their disbelief. Quite possibly, this leads to throwing our tomes across the room in fits of exasperation. As an abused reader, I learned this response firsthand. That experience also galvanized me to write, since I figured I could do this writing thing so much better. A-HEM and blush.

Another world around the corner. What if…

There are many books that have taken us into their worlds, shaped us, then kept us as return visitors. For me, Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, Guy Gavriel Kay’s FIONAVAR TAPESTRY, Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME, Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN and Patricia McKillip’s RIDDLEMASTER OF HED served this grander purpose. First came fascinated appreciation for these stories along with a willingness to immerse self into them. Later, I returned to read them more critically. Even now, I lose myself in their mastery. Sigh.

On Relevance – Part 1 by Janine M. Donoho

Okay, I’m struggling with relevance, which according to a random web definition relates to:
1. Pertinence to the matter at hand.

2. Applicability to social issues: a governmental policy lacking relevance.

3. The capability of a search engine or function to retrieve data appropriate to a user’s needs.
Evidently, humor seems inherent in this journey to find something like relevance. A black humor, in this case.
 
I’m back in the process of recovery–deja vu all over again. The frozen shoulder, unlike an annual thaw, did not simply wake up one morning revitalized into action. Instead, it required ‘medical intervention’. Read into this a nerve block and general anesthesia followed by manipulation that led to new holes in the shoulder and sawing away adhesions along with a repair to a blown bicep. Okay, the nerve block was geeky cool. My arm stayed totally asleep for 28 hours, during which time a tapping against my thigh  turned out to be my hand knocking against the leg. Oh, and I finally get the whole phantom limb thing my dad experienced. Still…
 
Remember the story of the woman who had a mouse infestation, so she got a cat to take care of the problem, which led to a need for dogs to deal with the cat problem…
 
So now at 3:30 am, after an ice pack and a pain killer, I’m deeply into questioning relevance. It’s A BIG ISSUE at this time of night. So let me shrink it to human scale first, then to being a writer in a world that seems to consider those who string words together less relevant than ever.
 
I’ve been at this writing thing for a while, my friends. Even as I write that word in plural, is it even germaine? For who reads this silly blog, after all. Yet as a reader first, I know two books that have been significant to me in this last month of deja vu recovery. The first is Kristen Hannah’s latest, WINTER GARDEN. The second? Guy Gavriel Kay’s UNDER HEAVEN, both of which make me question my ability, my vision, and yes, my relevance. Yes, they’re both wonderful. While this would be my usual cue to wax eloquently on the why of this, I just can’t right now.

Granted I haven’t been writing with any facility since December. Pain, drugs and loss of belief in self can do that to creativity. Frankly, my search engine’s gone awry. While I have four novels residing in my brain, why bother to put the time in the chair to bring them to fruition? Does the world need another of my evidently underwhelming works?
 
Instead, I’ve taken on a local job with a community school as programs manager. The relevance of that is to bring local creatives who have something to share into an environment where they can do so. Yet even here, this month of drugs and pain has limited my intention. There’s a catalog due to go out at the end of this month, yet I’m still in the ferret roundup stage of trying to get the creatives to commit. Ah, irony lives.
 
So, how to find relevance as a writer in this search engine world? More on this later.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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