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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guest Post: Grace R. Duncan

 Readers! Meet Grace R. Duncan, fellow author and sci-fi nerd. She decided to do a guest blog for me today, and in it she talks about some of her writing process, and how she goes about letting the readers know about the world's she creates. As a not-so-reformed Role Playing Dork I appreciate a good 'Verse. Sometimes I think I am more interested in building the world of my characters than actually writing a story, which was probably why role playing appealed (and still does, shhhh) to me so much. Be sure to check out her new book "CHOICES" in theaters--err...released by Dreamspinner Press. Also go cyberstalk her on the web, it's what all the cool kids are doing, and by that I mean; it's what I'm doing.

Please note I absolutely love having guest authors on this blog! (And not just because it means I don't have to do any work...) So if you want to write something for "Real Life Dean" send me an email ( real.life.dean@gmail.com ) and we'll make it happen. You can write about anything folks, I am not a fussy man. But onwards to Grace's brilliant work...

When I sat down to put together my post for today, I envisioned myself being nearly tormented when it came to deciding on the excerpt I would want to use for my post. Worldbuilding has definitely become one of my favorite parts of writing – creating the world, deciding the rules and laws, figuring out the history and politics and then coming up with a way to describe it is so fun to me.

But when I started to dig through my book to find the excerpt for this post, I ran into a bit of trouble.
See, I learned a long time ago that information dumps are bad. Like, the kind of bad that the reviewers and readers like to take an author out back and shoot you for. Of course, I’ve actually have a few people complain that I didn’t do an info dump in a couple of places, but those seem to be the exception.

But because of hearing this kind of thing over and over, I’d taken it to heart so much, that… there are very few passages that talk about my world. Not at length. So, instead, I thought I’d pick up a few of the individual bits from the book and show examples of how I set up the world in small bits and pieces.

Choices has three distinct countries in it, as I’ve mentioned in other blog posts. There is Saol (essentially medieval Europe), Neyem (the Middle East) and Tiantang (China). As my characters didn’t really venture into Saol in the text, I didn’t have to describe it. Instead, I focused on the two countries they did travel through: Neyem and Tiantang.

Neyem, an Arabic desert nation is the main location for the story. Most of it takes place inside the royal palace, so the vast majority of description is of it. The opening chapter, in fact, has very little description about the world. I wanted the reader to get a basic idea, but in truth, exactly where they were wasn’t important. I included a few bits like this:

THE cold night air bit at his nose and he yanked the thin black cotton of his face covering higher. Nighttime in the desert, even in summer, even in the city, had a sting to it that made these types of jobs miserable.


The wind kicked up a bit and sand blew in small dervishes that danced across his tiny hiding space.
I thought that, though it might give a bit of flavor, it wouldn’t distract from what was really going on. It wasn’t until after they’re caught, taken to the palace and sentenced that I got into it. Here, I thought, would be where Teman might be able to pay more attention, would want to since he’d never been there and, thus, give me a better opportunity to build my world a bit. The following is probably the longest bout of description I have in the book, from chapter two:

Finally, several levels up, they emerged in a hallway much smaller and less open than those of the first floor. Doors lined either side, all closed. The hallway itself, lit by low-burning oil lamps, was dim and long, and Teman’s trepidation grew as they walked. He found himself wondering what they’d gotten themselves into this time, because he wasn’t sure he could see them getting out of it.

Teman saw that the hallway ended by opening into a large, round room. Before they got to that room, however, the captain opened a door to their left and waved a hand for them to precede him. Sheer fabric fell in long streams from the ceiling in reds and oranges. There were large, intricately woven rugs covering the cool marble floors, and two big windows opened out into the cold night air, silk fluttering in the light breeze. Along one wall, a fire burned to ward off the chill of the desert night.

There was a desk off to one side covered in papers, inkpots, and a host of other indications of business, a comfortable-looking chair at an odd angle behind it. Opposite the desk was a long lounger covered in plump pillows, and on small tables here and there burned incense, giving a spicy scent to the air.

There is one other description that is part of Neyem that I really like. Without giving too much away, they are out and on their way to Tiantang. As they are, I included this bit that is one of my favorites:

THE desert was an unfriendly, brutal place. Teman’s early life out in the miles and miles of empty terrain full of sand and heat had taught him well how to deal with it.

He’d learned early on how to ration water to make sure he would have enough. He’d learned to take care of his animal first because, while he could pass out on its back, if it gave out, he would be dead. He’d learned to travel early and late in the day, and leave the heat of the afternoon for hiding in tents and other shelter.

This is not to say that the above descriptions are all I did of Neyem, just two of them. However, I tried to weave it in with action or other goings-on so I didn’t have Tolkien-esque blocks of text.

I have decided that I thoroughly love worldbuiding. I hope in the not too distant future to make up even newer worlds with a longer history, perhaps its own religion, among other things. For now, Neyem, Tiantang and the rest will have to do.

What parts of another world do you like to read about? What are your favorite things to find see?

Do remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a swag bag full of goodies from Choices! Each commenter will be entered and one person will be chosen by random number to win.

Thanks to Dean for hosting me today and thanks for stopping by to read!

* * *
Choices blurb:

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they're caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday. 

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer. 

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim's new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he'll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?


  1. Thank you for that wonderful intro! I'm pleased as can be to visit your blog today, Dean. And I'm thrilled you liked the post!

    1. Any time you want to come back , just say the word!

  2. Thanks for hosting, Dean, and thanks for sharing about worldbuilding, Grace!

    Good choices of passages here... I really did like the passages in the book describing Tiantang, as well, it sounds so beautiful. I think there was enough of a balance of descriptive passages and then more of how people acted and spoke that gave explanation to how the world works.


    1. Glad you enjoyed! Hope you come back to read more! And check out Grace's blog for more about her!

  3. Great insight into worldbuilding. I haven't finished the book just yet, but so far the descriptions of the palace and the world they live in have been fabulous. I expect nothing less from the rest of the book.

    1. D'awww, thank you!! That makes my day! I

  4. You have a beautiful way with words. I'm sure even the dreaded info dump would be a delight to read when crafted so carefully by you. X

  5. I like the description of the room, makes me feel like I'm there :)


  6. I get really bored with info dumps. I'd rather see the world building built into scenes, as you have done in your excerpts. But if Neyem is "an Arabic desert nation," why all the world building? Why not just use a kind of AU Arabia?
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