A Spell for World-Building – a Practical Example
(For the Advanced Witch/Warlock) by Shereen Vedam Part II of II
AN EFFECTIVE WORLD-BUILDING SPELL – a practical example
In Part I, we learned the theory on how to build a world for a story.
I’m going to show how I used used this technique while developing my most recent release, Love Spell in London, The Cauldron Effect, Book 3.
In this last book of the series, we have a hero who is equally hated by friends and foes alike, and a heroine who is fast falling in love with a man she’s been told she must never trust. It’s a historical fantasy romance set during the Regency era.
To recap, the world-building steps involve:
Gather the ingredients (what should this story be about)
Stir (make the dish delish)
Add a pinch of magic (incorporate tension at every turn of the page)
In picking my ingredients, I took into consideration not only the growth that both my main characters must undergo, but the time period in England in which this story takes place.
Let the world building begin!
Step 1 – Choose the Ingredients
Pick 3 ingredients that will shape your story.
My three ingredients for Love Spell in London were:
Water – From Maslow’s Level I – Physiological needs (a basic need we all have to survive)
Respect – From Maslow’s Level 4 – Need for Love and Belonging (by level 4, we’re evolving now to reach a higher plane of existence)
Acceptance of Facts – From Maslow’s Level 5 – Need for Self Actualization (accepting facts seems a simple enough concept, yet this is one of the highest growth levels we as humans can hope to achieve)
The Broad Strokes / The Big Picture
This is when we set up the major pieces at work in a book and the roles the ingredients will play.
During the Regency period in the UK, 1816 was known as The Year Without a
Mount Tambora in 1815 might have been the cause.
This inspired the idea of two main factors in my story.
The prevalent weather pattern (it rained a lot).
A water god as a side character.
I chose this need because not only does the hero have a lesson to learn about accepting No for an answer, but after being viewed as a villain in book 1, he feels a need to feel respected.
It also becomes a lesson for our impulsive heroine to consider, about respecting authority and her family’s wishes and wishing her decisions to be respected.
There are also reverberations of this lesson for the two mothers in this story.
The more ways in which you use one ingredient, the richer the story becomes as each method used reflects off another.
Acceptance of Facts
This too was something that resonated with the hero because he has had many disappoints that he has needed to process.
I suspect we all have difficulty with this ultimate desire and because of that, we can empathize with others who are struggling with it. This type of empathizing can help a reader connect with a character.
As it turned out, acceptance of facts, develops into an oft repeated mantra for my hero.
Fact: Life was unfair.
Dewer, Love Spell in London
WRITING TIP #1 – Paste your 3 ingredients into the footer of your work-in-process, to keep them in sharp focus as you write.
Step 2 – Stir
Incorporate the 3 ingredients into your story’s setting and character psyches until they become seamless.
The constant downpour during The Year Without Summer in England, meant bushes were droopy, roses didn’t bloom as well and there were puddles everywhere. There was flooding in many areas. In Love Spell in London, I not only used this as a general setting, but that there was something intrinsically wrong with the waterways of England. It was affecting the fishes, a worry Grace’s father struggles with, because he has an interest in the fish industry. He even tries to enlist the heroine, Grace, a healing witch, to check on his sick trout.
Think of all the different ways you can use the same ingredients to build your story.
During Regency times, people’s behavior was governed by one’s social standing. So, how would a character behave in the presence of someone of a higher station, like a countess, or of a lower station, like a servant? It’s all a matter of the respect that we show each other. Displaying this accurately for the time period of your story can help to give credibility to historical novels.
When our hero, Dewer, arrives at Grace’s home, wishing to retrieve his two stolen hellhounds, the witches there are justly upset. He is the enemy of their coven. Grace’s mother refuses to sit in his presence, which forces him to stand, out of respect for her.
Not only should your ingredients affect the setting of your story, but the behavior of your characters with each other. All of that together will shape your story’s world story.
Acceptance of Facts
While Dewer begins by showing how much he has learned to accept the fact of life, every situation he encounters tests his assumptions and forces him to re-think his beliefs. He will eventually learn that, sometimes, facts can change.
Look for ingenious ways in which to use your ingredients, not merely the tried and true. Sometimes you must test an assumption, even your hero’s. That’s also a good way to keep your reader on her toes and intrigued by the turn of the story.
TIP #2 – Play with how your 3 concepts can be positively or negatively reflected in the lives of your secondary characters in comparison to those seen in your main characters.
Step 3 – Add that pinch of magic
Magic happens when readers become so lost in the story, they forget they are reading a book. How to find that pinch of magic? You do it by incorporating tension into every page.
One way you can add tension is by transforming each ingredient into a challenge for the main characters. Bonus points if you can do this with your side characters as well.
Hero’s challenge: When Dewer, who has been fighting his dark fae mother’s control over him all of his life, discovers a Water God is using him as a pawn, what will he do?
Heroine’s challenge: When Grace, a healing witch, discovers something in Britain’s waterways is poisoning all the creatures in it, will she try to to stop this epidemic? Can she succeed?
Hero’s challenge: Grace is devoted to her mother, yet, how can Dewer earn the respect of Grace’s mother when she refuses to even let him sit while inside her home?
Heroine’s challenge: How can Grace ever hope to win the respect of Dewer’s mother, who despises all witches, considers Grace’s wish to heal all those who need her assistance to be a weakness, and tired to murder the last witch whom Dewer loved?
Acceptance of Facts
Hero’s challenge: How can he ignore all the facts staring him starkly in the face: witches hate warlocks; his possessive mother hates all witches, and kind-hearted Grace can’t possibly survive in his dark and dangerous world?
Heroine’s challenge: Facts are mounting against Grace’s love for Dewer every surviving. His mother hates her, thinks Grace is weak and will be the death of her son, and Grace’s mother and coven distrusts and despises Dewer.
TIP #3 – consider challenging your ingredient. It could be fun and you might surprise yourself and your reader on where the story leads both of you.
By using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as the basis for your 3 ingredients, and then layering them into your story, chances are good that your tale will connect emotionally with a wide audience who will empathize with the needs you are evoking, because those concepts, those intrinsic human needs, are ingrained in all of our nature.
If you had to pick 3 ingredients from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to build the world of your current story, what would they be? Check the reference below for the choices and then share your ingredients with us and why you chose them.
References: (a) An Introduction to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (YouTube – good video…9min 51sec)
View the Book Trailer below for Coven at Callington, Book 1 in The Cauldron Effect series.