Monday, February 05, 2007

Up The Down Street

This morning (or actually late last night) I started doing a Q&A on the eharlequin site about developing fictional worlds.

It's the first time I've done one on their website, though I've done quite a few others to do with genealogical and historical topics. So far it's been interesting and I'm very grateful to everyone who has shown up as it's nice to talk to people and not just post things and wonder if people are reading them or not. Kate Walker, for example, showed up and made us all tea. I really appreciated that.

Michelle Styles, who writes historicals for Harlequin Mills & Boon (and whose first book is on the RNA shortlist for best category romance novel this year) made a particularly good point about creating a believable historical world when she said that the goal was "authenticity" more than it was absolute "accuracy."

And Ally Blake, another Harlequin author, (no, this is not Ally, this is Aristotle) came to explain the term "diegesis" that was first used in ancient Greece to discuss literature. She talked about how it is used in the film world, where it refers to the world in which the story takes place. I checked it out further on wikipedia and found it contrasted with "mimesis" -- which is showing rather than telling.

Later, following on the "diegesis" path I found a particularly good website that discussed the diegetics of Star Trek and explained how it was such a complex and yet cohesive world that when anything significant happened in any of its particular serieses or, for want of a better word, incarnations, there was a reverberating impact throughout the whole of the Star Trek universe.

And that, in a nutshell, is what we're trying to get at. The world you create has to be believable and it has to operate according to rules (either natural or invented, but in either case, consistent) and readers have to come to understand it and know what to expect from it -- they have to buy into the world and want to share in it or you, as a writer, have let them down.

This goes for big things, but it goes for little things, too -- like putting two way traffic on a famous one way street. Or sending the traffic the wrong way up the street. Or putting Bermuda in the Bahamas. Or have six or seven thunderstorms a summer in Southern California where one is actually pretty remarkable.

I like that word: diegesis. I hope I remember it next time I want to use it. And I can hardly wait to see what we end up discussing tomorrow. Join us if you can.


Blogger allyblake said...

I love that you love my word Anne! And no, I don't look all that much like Aristotle, thank goodness ;).


06 February, 2007  
Blogger Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Anne and Ally.....diegesis., a great word!

10 February, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Any time you are reading and get pulled out of the story by some stupid thing an author does, now you know what she's messed up, Marilyn. Great word, isn't it?

10 February, 2007  

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