ABB April 6th 2023 Blog Traci Hall
World building tips
I just returned from two weeks in San Diego visiting family and came home pumped about a new series idea. Creative juices gushing—where to start?
I love world building. When I begin a new book, I have a general idea of my character, of place and time. The genre, and the community. (Who, where, when, what, and why.) I want my characters to grow and become their best selves. Often this means that they begin the story on shaky ground. I learned early in my writing days that you can’t be too nice to your characters, which is hard because we love them so much. They are family.
In contemporary romance, it’s usually a heroine and hero coming from a broken heart of some kind to heal and love again. In a cozy mystery, the protagonist is often starting over in some fashion. The why in my story equation is referring to why the reader should care…and whether it’s a small town or particular neighborhood, belonging to a community is something most of us want. (Doesn’t have to be a spot on the map, even, but a group like theater or writing, diving club etc. Think of the groups you belong to!)
In my By the Sea romances, the small seaside community is where they all heal and learn to love again. In my Scottish Shire mysteries, Paislee Shaw has had to earn her place in a judgmental Victorian-esque shire to raise her son without a father. In the Salem B and B series, Charlene Morris is a widow starting over after the death of her soulmate. The Salem residents embrace her as she finds her footing. In the Irish Castle series, Rayne McGrath is at the top of her bridalwear designer game, only to be taken down by deceit and forced to begin again in Ireland, a place dear to her dead father. Thanks to the inhabitants of the castle, she finds a home where she least expected it.
Community often becomes a character, which is why I think that world building is so important. I lived in Lauderdale by the Sea when I was writing my contemporary romances. After my divorce, the ocean held healing properties and allowed me to be open to love again. The series books are stand-alone romances that all happen in that particular place. The palm trees, Aruba’s, the pier—blue skies, and white sand. Anglin’s. Sand dunes. The smell of the sea, the tang of salt on my skin. These details bring readers into the tropical By the Sea world.
It helped that I lived there, but not so for Salem, MA. When Patrice Wilton and I started that first book, Mrs. Morris and the Ghost, we relied on the internet and read lots of books. By book 2 we’d been to Salem and realized that we hadn’t included things like the friendliness of the locals to tourists, or how the sky was overcast and gray, or how the water had a dank smell around the bay. The feel of the wind when we stood by the lighthouse, the taste of lobster, or the architecture of the buildings—all claimed to have a ghost. Our character Kass came from a tour guide we really liked. Book 7, Mrs. Morris and the Wolfman, will be out in September!
You can imagine that I am lobbying hard to my DH that we need to visit Scotland in 2024, and Ireland, so that I can get the feel of the place, lol. Those tiny details that one might miss if you aren’t careful add a wee bit more spice.
Not to say that you can’t overcome that! I’ve watched hours of home videos from bloggers, or YouTube videos, I’ve talked to people from the areas I’m writing about, I’ve listened to the music by locals, I’ve immersed myself by reading the “local” news. When we were creating Charlene’s bed and breakfast, I signed up for Zillow for a particular house that I still get notifications on when it’s on the market. I get a daily news bite for Salem. I am signed up for the Daily Independent for Ireland, and I subscribe to Scottish Scran blog.
This is a lot, so let me boil it down—
World building to me is about creating community with sights, scents, touch, sound…and then portraying how your character fits into that place, at first not comfortably, but as the story and series progress, they fit.
I am always happy to answer any questions, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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You can find a list of my books on my Amazon author page…be sure to give it a like while you’re there <3
From cozy mysteries to seaside romance, USA Today bestselling author Traci Hall writes stories that captivate her readers. As a hybrid author with over sixty published works, Ms. Hall has a favorite tale for everyone.
Mystery lovers, check out her Scottish Shire series, set in the seaside town of Nairn, or the Salem B&B Mystery series, co-written as Traci Wilton. Her latest project is an Irish Castle cozy as Ellie Brannigan. Whether it’s her ever-popular By the Sea romances, an Appletree Cove sweet romance, or a fun who-done-it, Traci finds her inspiration in sunny South Florida, living right near the ocean.
Traci wants to hear from you!