Hi, gang. Craig here again with another of my Expansion packs. These are intended to enhance your stories without being absolute requirements. They mix in well with the series I wrote about The Hero’s Journey, also known as the Writing Monomyth.
I have to confess, I’ve only dabbled with this one and have no good explanation why. I’m kind of known for jumping right in, but I dipped my toe in these waters first. I’m now consciously trying to weave more of this into my stories.
Casual readers are great, but we all love fans. These are the people who keep coming back because they have faith in us. It turns out there is a way to nurture this beast, a bit.
To write this one, I have to include a bit of my experience to explain it. I first consciously tried some of this on Voyage of the Lanternfish. Oddly enough, this is the one people are requesting a sequel for, and I think it’s partly because of these tips. I’ve been asked for sequels on all of my stories, but this one has taken on a life of its own. I’m determined to turn it into a trilogy. In no particular order, these are the tips:
The World: Stories play out on a fairly narrow path, but in speculative fiction, the bigger world is important.
Create unexplored parts of the world to let your readers know there could be a lot more here. Obviously, you need to weave this in casually and not break the flow of the story. If it sounds interesting, readers might come back to see what else is there.
The Harry Potter world is a great example for all of these tips. The Triwizard Tournament involved competitors from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. We never get to visit, but there must be stories to tell from those schools. It’s just enough to whet our appetites for what might be out there.
For myself, I mentioned a country called Saphelon that has a Germanic vibe. I mentioned the island of Malatook that is inhabited by cannibals, and someplace called the Island Prefectures that are pseudo-Japan. Lanternfish never sailed there, but the crew members had some experience with these places. (They may sail to some of these places in subsequent tales. Still working that out.)
Invite your readers in: Your readers shouldn’t feel like outsiders. Make sure there is a way they can participate.
The Potter stories did this well. There is a house for everyone at Hogwarts. This means you might get sorted into Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw, but there is a place for you. Note: These houses are also unexplored parts of the world, like up above.
Look at the faces in Pirates of the Caribbean. This isn’t just a place for white guys. There are women, a selection of ethnic races, ages, etc. Being a pirate is possible for all readers/viewers.
Whether you’re creating a Legion, or a cavalry of dragon riders, don’t make it so exclusive that readers can’t plant their butts on one of those dragons.
Dr. Who travels with a companion. Those companions, while usually over the top, are regular old humans. He doesn’t only choose mermaids or telepaths to be companions. All of us could take a spin in the Tardis.
Warning: After you’ve taken the time to include people, never – ever – under any circumstances – ever explain midichlorians. With one minor scene all of us were evicted from ever becoming Jedi, or Siths for that matter. Now we’re all parked in the audience of a theater wondering how long the popcorn line is.
History: Your world was around long before your hero was born, and will exist long after she’s turned to dust. Let your readers feel that.
Our modern world changes fast, and that isn’t what you want here. Look for institutions that have a history and live on – and on. Again, you have to skillfully weave this in and not just info dump it.
Hogwarts is a great example of this, but so is the Night’s Watch. They even had an oath, which is golden to get the feeling you want here. This includes the Jedi, the Kung Fu temples, orders of knighthood, etc.
It could be the Marine Corp, but give readers a flavor of some past glory and future expectations.
In my own example, a character known only as ‘the hat’ has been around since man left the caves and formed the first civilizations. I peppered this story with tales about Lizzie’s relatives dating back to the Greek city states, the Spanish Inquisition, and the American frontier. There was even a tale about one relative who pushed the bow from an upright bass through a vampire during World War II. The point was the lengthy history of monster hunters, and a character who might be here after Lizzie’s race is run.
Note: When you’re weaving all this in, make sure it isn’t so different that your readers will feel out of place. Readers need to have a way to ground themselves in the story. We’ve all been in a rainstorm, so we relate, but I’m looking for a bit more. For example, Harry Potter’s world was largely familiar to us with trains, market streets, classes, etc. It was different enough to be exotic, but we could buy in with things we understand.
This could be more difficult when you’re writing a space opera. None of us have been in space, but Luke and Chewbacca played a board game. We’ve all done that. We’ve all chatted with elders about our own parents. (Luke and Obi Wan.)
How about it, gang? Do you include information to indicate more adventures are possible in the worlds you create? Is your cast inclusive or exclusive? Do you include some kind of history, fables, or myths in your tales? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.