Monday, July 06, 2009

Guest - Michelle Miles

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all had a terrific holiday (if you're in the USA) and/or a terrific weekend :-D My hubby and I did bratwursts on the grill and had a very interesting non-mayonnaise potato salad. And, of course, hubby being a natural born pyro-maniac (my fond term for him, lol) we had a mini-fireworks in our backyard. All in all, a nice relaxing day.

But, now, we're back to work and today we have special guest Michelle Miles, who will be talking about one of the most important aspects of writing, no matter the genre, Worldbuilding.

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How I Worldbuild

Hello, all! I want to thank Lynda for inviting me over to Star-Crossed Romance today!

I’ve recently finished my second full-length fantasy story (the first one was, well, awful) and thought I’d share my very strange way of worldbuilding. It actually works very well for me, but my way be a little off the wall for others. ;)

I got the inspiration for Phoenix Rising from a really strange dream I had. I knew I had to write it down and quickly before it got lost in the deep dark chasm that is my brain. As soon as I got up that morning, I headed to the computer and wrote a three page synopsis. The entire story came to me that way and I wrote it down in detail.

Then I sat on it for about six months while I pondered it.

Phoenix Rising is the story of a young woman who is a slave and forced to fight in the Games as a gladiatrix. She never imagines the only person who can free her from her life of killing is an assassin whom she falls in love with. When the tyrannical Emperor discovers their forbidden tryst, he pits them against each other in a fight to the death in the Games.

Originally, I had the story set in Ancient Rome and did a lot of research on gladiators and how their life was. I ordered these really cool DVDs from The History Channel on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. The DVDs really aided me in giving a feel for the time period and the violence that surrounded the rulers, their insatiable need to dominate the uncivilized world, and those who were trying to make a living and survive the iron-fisted Roman Empire.

So when I set out to write the story, I took all of this as the basis for the setting. But there were things I needed in my world that weren’t part of Ancient Rome (for instance, my heroine was raised in an orphanage). It was then I realized this wasn’t really a historical; this was fantasy. I changed place names to a fictional city in a sprawling Empire ruled by a man more interested in the bloody games in his capital city than expanding his territory. (He’s also a slovenly, lascivious pig…)

As I wrote, I began to realize I needed something more concrete on where things were in the city. So I set out to draw a map. Armed with graph paper and map pencils – and an old rendering of what Ancient Rome once looked like in his heyday – I sat down and drew my fictional city. I based it on Ancient Rome but “built” my own Grand Arena, the Grand Stadium, the Emperor’s palace, the sacred temples, the gladiator barracks. I even “built” an aqueduct. And then I wrote a history of the city, which of course will never make it into the book but it’s stuff I needed to know to give my city purpose and my characters history.

When I got back to the book, I knew where everything was and I set about making the appropriate revisions. The first draft was finished in a month; the second draft in another month and weighed in at 80,000 words.

Of course I didn’t follow the synopsis to the letter but I followed it fairly closely and by the time I finished the second draft, I had a decent synopsis that just needed some tweaking.

For me, worldbuilding involves finding a civilization, a history, or an event I can base my world on and then go from there. For this story, I was inspired by a dream involving a female gladiator and knew where I wanted to go. For others, I find something I’m interested in. For example, I have another fantasy story (as yet unfinished) that is based on Celtic myths and legends.

Once I know where and what my world is, I can then set the mood and get to writing!

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Michelle Miles began writing long ago in junior high when she and her then-best friend wrote and illustrated their own Indiana Jones comic books. Star Trek fan-fiction quickly followed, as did Star Wars. Later, she dabbled in her own science fiction stories and historical fiction - princesses, towers, and handsome princes! Michelle finally found her footing on contemporary ground with her first novella, TALK DIRTY TO ME. A time travel series followed along with three more contemporaries.

For more information about her current releases and to sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit Michelle’s website at http://www.michellemiles.net. You can also friend her on Facebook and MySpace and follow her at Twitter.

Her latest contemporary, TAKE ME I’M YOURS, is available now from Cobblestone Press.

BOOKS BY MICHELLE MILES



Take Me I’m Yours (2009)
Available from Cobblestone Press
http://cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/takeme.htm

Nice Girls Do (2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook
http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/nice-girls-do

Talk Dirty To Me (2006)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook
http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/talk-dirty-to-me

A Break In Time: Book 2 (2007 / 2008)
Available From Samhain Publishing – eBook and print
http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/michelle-miles

A Bend In Time: Book 1 (2006 / 2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing – eBook and print
http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/michelle-miles

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-- Lynda here. Thanks for the great article, Michelle. Your book, Phoenix Rising, sounds like something I'd read in a heartbeat. Make sure you let us know when you get a release date for it :-D


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12 comments:

Nancy said...

Michelle, thanks for the terrific post about your method of world building! I love that your dream inspired an entire synopsis, too!

I world-build in a similar way. I dig for what I think I need to know, let the ideas cook, research new questions, etc. Of course, there are always those things that come up in the course of writing that I have to go check. But that makes the writing process all the more dynamic. :)

Congratulations, Michelle!

Light,
Nancy Haddock
www.nancyhaddock.com

KAK said...

It's wonderful when the constraints of history can fall away to a 'tweaked' world of fantasy. I'm looking forward to reading 'Phoenix Rising.'

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Michelle,

Dreams can be an excellent source of inspiration. In the years that I taught creative writing, I always mentioned that students should keep a pen and notebook at their bedside so that when they awoke from a particularly vivid dream, they could jot down their impressions.

Jacqueline Seewald
THE DROWNING POOL, Five Star/Gale 2009 romantic mystery

PJ von Detweiler said...

While I don't go so far as to use graph paper, I do make basic schematics of ships, towns, homes, etc. so they become real. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who relies on a visual.

Your emperor sounds rather like Jaba the Hut. (I may have spelled that wrong, but you know who (or what) I mean.) That's the picture that flashed into my mind at your description. Totally gross.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Michelle, Great post. I use the same sort of worldbuilding for any book I write. It helps keep things straight so readers [or the author] don't get confused. I remember reading part of Pheonix Rising--great title, by the way. I am now looking forward to the Celtic novel.

Michelle Miles said...

Nancy, hi! *waves* Thanks for stopping by. It's nice to know my crazy worldbuilding isn't unique. LOL

Hi, KAK! I hope the agent I'm pitching feels the same way. *crossig fingers*

Jacqueline, it's the only time a dream has transferred to paper successfully. For whatever reason, that story HAD to get written. I'm so glad I didn't waste the opportunity and not write it down.

Hi, PJ! Yes, that's exactly how I imagined him, too. So when things happened to my heroine, I felt her disgust, too. It was easy to write those scenes. LOL

Caroline, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the seciton of Phoenix I sent you (and that was one of the earlier drafts). I hope it's much better now and that it finds a home VERY soon.

Thanks everyone for taking time to stop by today! Much appreciated.

Kate M. from Fantasy Crittters said...

What fun to hear how a novel came to be. I was intrigued by the choice to move from historical to fantasy not to include magic, but to play with historical fact. Love the idea of a female gladiatrix.

Michelle Miles said...

Hi, Kate! Thanks so much for stopping by. This is really how I find my fantasy worlds and it's really a lot of fun.

I hope that female gladiator sells now. LOL!

Misty Evans said...

Fascinating, Michelle! I love that you sat down with grid paper and drew out your setting. Your talent extends beyond writing!

I can't wait to read Phoenix Rising. What a cool character, the gladiatrix. Every time I wear my glad sandals, I think of you and your story!

Misty
www.readMistyEvans.com

Michelle Miles said...

Thanks for stopping by, Misty! I do love that story. And I have glad sandals, too! Of course! :)

Ann Whitaker said...

Egad. I thought I had weird dreams. But none of mine make that much sense once I wake up. I'm impressed with the amount of research you did!

BTW, SECRET WEAPONS is hilarious, as is the "warning" at the end of NICE GIRLS DO. Hope to see that one and TALK DIRTY TO ME in print some day.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Michelle, I'm heading out of town until the weekend but before I go, I wanted to thank you again for guesting with us this week. I enjoyed your article and have to admit that my methods mirror yours quite a bit :-) It can be fun, can't it?

Hope you enjoy(ed) your time with us this week too!

Lynda