Tuesday, April 26

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 5 comments
by guest author,  Annie Douglass Lima

Worldbuilding is so important for authors – and I don’t just mean those who are creating an exotic alien world. Even stories that take place in more realistic locations deserve careful worldbuilding so that our characters can live their lives in locations that make sense.

I have found that the best way I can make my settings believable is through careful research. Yes, research, even for fiction set in a place that doesn’t exist! That’s because any set of characters living in any location must do activities similar to those we know on earth. If they do it believably, it strengthens the culture and location the author has built for her story.

My fantasy series The Annals of Alasia takes place in a non-magical world similar to medieval Europe, so many details about the world had to be similar to ours. For Prince of Alasia, I researched horse training. For In the Enemy’s Service, I looked up medicinal herbs and their uses. For Prince of Malorn, I learned all about wilderness survival: edible plants, starting a fire without matches, and even how raw beetle grubs taste (like a small piece of cooked fat, if anyone’s wondering). 

Believable character action requires research
My action and adventure series The Krillonian Chronicles takes place in an alternate world that is almost exactly like ours today. For both The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard, I had to find out what kinds of mechanical problems a fifteen-year-old pickup truck might encounter and what their symptoms would be (and how much it would cost to fix them). I also needed to learn what tool would be most convenient to cut a metal collar off a person’s neck without hurting him, and what kind of diet professional athletes recommend. 

By far the topic I’ve spent the most time researching for any of my books has been martial arts. Since I’m not a martial artist myself, that was a particular challenge for me. Both of these last two books involve cavvara shil, a martial art I made up. Obviously, the fact that I created it doesn’t mean athletes should be able to ignore the laws of physics or perform moves that would be impossible for humans. I spent many long hours reading books and articles, examining pictures, and watching video clips of a variety of martial arts and specific moves performed in them. I consulted with real martial artists and later asked two of them to beta read my completed manuscript to make sure everything was believable. As I wrote, I was careful to make sure that my characters worked out, practiced, and competed the way professional martial artists really do – of course with variations to allow for the fact that they fight with a cavvarach (sword-like weapon with a hook halfway down the blade) as well as their feet. And it worked! Numerous reviewers have mentioned that cavvara shil is not only exciting but realistic, and one even mentioned that she looked it up to see if it really existed and to find out where she could watch a tournament.

Whatever your novel is about and whatever your characters do, there will be readers out there who have background knowledge about all of those details. Even those who don’t will probably have an instinctive feeling that some of the information is “off”, if you haven’t made sure it’s accurate. Our characters’ situations need to be realistic, whether they actually live in a real place or not. Otherwise, it won’t matter how vividly you describe your alien setting, no one will be able to picture your characters having actual lives in a world that makes sense.

photo credit: clarita at morguefile.com

The Gladiator and the Guard, a young adult action and adventure novel, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach

About Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

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  1. Thanks so much for letting me visit your blog! I hope the article is helpful to your readers and that they enjoy hearing about my books!

    1. Thanks for this wonderfully helpful post. Wishing you every success with your launch!

  2. Nice post Annie! I'm with you re: research. I spent quite a bit of time on sword fighting as well as all the mythical creatures that appear in my world of Oomaldee. I was thrilled when a fan actually said the sword fighting scenes sounded very realistic!

    1. Congratulations, Linda! Isn't it a great feeling when a fan says that?!

    2. Hooray for research! And thanks for visiting, Linda.