I recently read A Brush Of Darkness, which is the debut novel for Allison Pang. I enjoyed the book immensely but was left wondering how an author goes about building a world as complex as the one in Allison’s book. What is the process that goes into something so intricate? I asked Allison to come here today to talk to us about what she goes through in her world building. Please welcome Allison to the blog today!!!
World building can be a tricky subject. Too much detail can overwhelm the reader, but too little can make them confused – and the wrong details can make them question the author’s veracity. After all, if the setting is that of the contemporary world, as urban fantasy often is, then the basic setting details have to be correct. If the reader trusts the mundane portions, then they will be much more likely to suspend disbelief for the things that are not.
I think sometimes it’s better to gloss over the smaller things, especially if they’re not super important. Saying your characters are getting coffee from Starbucks is probably good enough in most cases – but start describing too many things and a reader may call you on it if you get it wrong – i.e. the color of the cup lids or something like that. On the other hand, that sort of commercialism is often frowned upon in genre writing. Writers are often advised to not use name brands because it can date the book. After all, if I say my story is in a modern setting and then refer to the heroine using a record player, then a reader is going to question me.
I’m a bit on the fence about this. Books and stories are the products of the time they are written in. I suspect if anyone is actually reading my books in 20 years and feels like complaining that I referred to one of the characters as wearing Skechers instead of “sparkly athletic shoes”, I’ll manage. (After all, I sorta suspect the Brontë sisters weren’t worrying about making sure they kept descriptions of their heroine’s chemise generic enough to ensure it was readable 100 years later.)
I will admit I didn’t do a massive amount of research for my world building in A Brush of Darkness. Part of this is because I ended making up quite a bit of it – i.e. the CrossRoads, which are somewhat based on the idea of ley lines. The concept of the three/four Paths was inspired directly from the True Thomas poem of Thomas the Rhymer. In the poem The Faery Queen takes Thomas to Faerie, but they stop at a crossroads. To the right is the road to Heaven, to the left leads to Hell and the middle goes to Faerie, which is where they end up going, of course. Now, I took that a step further and made up a fourth Path (Humanity), which was really just my interpretation that Thomas could have gone back the way he came…but there you have it.
I wavered a bit on the city of Portsmyth, but in the end, I decided I didn’t want to deal with the headache of having the story set a real city. I will totally admit that parts of are based on Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (where I used to work), but I wanted the flexibility and the control of shaping it the way I needed it to be.
As far as the overall mythology goes, it is decidedly Celtic in nature (at least in my mind), but because of the whole Kitchen Sink creature concept (i.e. three Paths all hanging out in the mortal world), anything and anyone could potentially show up. Many of the people/beings I write about in the Magic Marketplace are actually cameo shout-outs to characters that I or my friends have played in online RPG games, for example. (As an aside note, both Brystion and Phin started out as RPG characters – I like to trot out ideas that way and see how they fit, although both went through many changes from their humble beginnings and they’re not quite the same as they were.) The rest of it I either draw from what I already knew or I make it up as I go to fit the story. Although, as most readers know, an author really does have to stick to whatever rules they come up with. Consistency demands it, if nothing else.
Thank you so much for stopping by Allison! I really enjoyed getting to know a bit about your process and what was going through your head when you were writing A brush Of Darkness! Please, come back anytime! !
Check out Allison’s Book
I had a naked incubus in my bedroom. With a frying pan of half-cooked bacon and a hard-on. And a unicorn bite on his ass. Christ, this was turning out to be a weird morning.
Six months ago, Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod, a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer, and a magical marketplace to manage. But despite her growing knowledge of the OtherWorld, Abby isn’t at all prepared for Brystion, the dark, mysterious, and as sexy as sin incubus who shows up searching for his sister—and is convinced Abby has the key to the succubus’s whereabouts. Abby has enough problems without having this seductive shape-shifter literally invading her dreams to get information. But when her Faery boss and some of her friends vanish as well, Abby and Brystion must form an uneasy alliance. As Abby is sucked deeper and deeper into this perilous world of faeries, angels, and daemons, she realizes her life is in as much danger as her heart—and there’s no one she can trust to save her.
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