Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Building by Kitty Griffin

Key West, Florida

Ah, as I think back on this picture...sigh, Key West. Sunshine, the ocean, warmth...a fresh fish dinner and a good stiff drink. We're predicted to have another eight days with snow off and on. I want winter to go. It's spring! I'm going to find that ground hog and growl at him because he said it would be an early spring. Has he been the one drinking? 

Enough complaining. Onto the writing world.

When Emma came to visit she looked around my office. She  noticed a painting right away and remarked, "That's interesting." I told her of course, you know that because that's the manor where Brother Johann grew up. Emma edited a story for me, one set in 1313 and involving a certain Gretel, the girl who must deal with the fact that not only did her beloved father leave her in the woods to die, that with her hands, she killed another. I showed Emma several pictures that I used to help me build Gretel's world, a place called Landende. A place built in my brain from bits of Germany, and much of it from a large county park that I walked in almost every day as I worked on this story. It became my world, the hills, the trees, the stream. I know this 4,000 acre park as well as if it were mine, because it's architecture is now part of my novel. 

I used a photograph of a girl that I found and one of a boy for my Hansel and Gretel. I used pictures that a friend took of the Black Forest in Germany. My neighbor is German and her parents sent me post cards from Bavaria. 
I did what I could to make my world real.

Emma said world-building is one of the most serious tasks a writer takes on, whether writing fantasy or historical fiction. As I work on a story set in Washington D.C. in 1952 I've been fortunate to find tour books from that time period as well as post cards. I put these all around, along with a map of D.C. to keep me focused.

How do you build a world? Look deep into this picture I took in Mingo Park, near my house. It's another place. Another world. Once that I dove into, heart and soul.

Landende, Kitty's imagination

Dalkey Village, Ireland
I was fortunate enough to take a visit to Ireland this year.
What a treat! This picture is of Dalkey Village, located on the Eastern coast, just south of Dublin. It's where Maeve Binchley lived. (May she rest in peace). I don't know much about village life, but should I write a story set in one, I'd start with this picture.

The Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Again, who knows what it's like to live in the shadow of a volcano. What would you do if you wanted to put one in your story? Where would you start?

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The book I published with Atheneum when Emma was there was set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy). Like a bit of gold found on the beach, I found this forgotten legend and reshaped it into a picture book. To really get to know this world I interviewed fourteen people about the history, the biology, and the geography. I bought books on birds, seashells, the ocean, and ponies. I wanted my story to be as real as I could make it. That, combined with the exciting, electric art of Marjorie Priceman gave us a book that received wonderful reviews and awards. Really, it was finding a treasure. 

When you find your world, remember you are the architect. Make your world as believable as possible. Do what you need to, visit if you can, find pictures, paintings, interview people, and dive deep. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful post Kitty. You made me think of possibilities, and that is always good. I have some wonderful photos that I'm going to look at with new eyes...hopefully, a writer's eyes!