Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why YA Realistic Fiction #2: World-Building

Welcome to post #2 in my September Weekly Discussion Posts focusing on YA Realistic Fiction and why it rocks. Many times I feel like contemporary and historical books are overlooked in favor of the paranormal, fantasy, and dystopia around the YA blogosphere. This is just a little attempt on my part to bring to your attention some of the great things about YA Realistic Fiction. I'm going to have three weeks of posts and then the fourth week will have a giveaway so be sure to stop by!

This week's topic is World-building and is perhaps a bit more relevant to contemporary rather historical fiction. I was reminded of this as I started reading Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff this week. This is an adult steampunk fantasy novel that is filled with unfamiliar words and governmental structures; I really struggled in the beginning. To me, this experience is a great reminder of how fast I can slip into a contemporary novel. Most of those I've read are set in high schools or the summer in America-something I am very familiar with. Even those set in Australian or British schools have their familiar elements.

This also applies to all of the little details: what do people eat? What does their clothing and housing look like? What role does the government play? A lot of those answers can be taken for granted in a contemporary novel and it certainly helps me slide into the world and start to connect with the characters, my primary purpose when reading.

These thoughts are not an excuse for realistic fiction writers to skimp on details that enhance our understanding of character because they assume we know already. The right information about character clothing or class selection can prove illuminating. But I think it's a great thing for us readers to not have to wade through pages of description and info-dumps before we can get to the real heart of the story.

Do you agree that the worlds of realistic fiction often pop quickly more than those that are constructed whole-scale from the author's imagination?

Be sure to join me next week for the third post about relationships.

Look what I treated myself to:
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett
Two great books that you could win September 23 when I unveil my accompanying giveaway!


  1. I think that worldbuilding is crucial, whether the book is realistic fiction or fantasy, but I agree that it's a more difficult task when the world is one that is unfamiliar to the reader. It's a real skill to figure out what the reader needs to know and when! Great topic!

  2. In discussing readers advisory we talk about how authors sometimes use familiar characters and familiar situations so they can get right to the plot of the book rather than filling the reader in on the rules. Some readers really prefer this type of storytelling that is so common in contemporary fiction. Of course, a contemporary fiction novel set in a foreign country might need more "world building" or if the book is about an unusual character and the reader needs to know more about their circumstances or backstory then there might be more description and details involved before the plot unfolds. Usually though in YA contemporary fiction, the story does take off fairly quickly and feel familiar to readers so they don't need a lot of catch up to understand. That is perhaps why contemporary fiction is so perfect for beach reading! Good post :)

  3. I think realistic is easier to focus on the story when you are writing. Creative world building is a difficult (but lovely) task and I like seeing things like Harry Potter's two distinct worlds in books. I can see why authors want the world to be the same as ours though, just depending on the story.

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  4. I think world building id very important when it comes to keeping the reader attentive and answering their questions..but I don't like when a book starts off with long, boring descriptions of the place the book is set in when you really want to get into the heart of the story. :)

  5. I gree that the worlds of realistic fiction often pop quickly more than those that are constructed whole-scale from the author's imagination

  6. I agree with your post and that is part of the reason why I love contemporary novels. I love a book that has a quick start and doesn't need to drag on describing all the details of this constructed world. There are a few authors though that manage to captivate the attention of the reader from the get go and draw us into the world they have created.

  7. I had never thought about how easy it is to slip into a contemporary novel! You are so right! I read a great deal of Christian Fiction, too, and I strongly prefer historical to contemporary. I don't think I have a preference when it comes to YA fiction, though.

  8. It is far easier to dive right into the world of a contemporary fiction book! I guess I'll do the cop-out thing and say I like both, depending on my mood :)

  9. That's a really interesting idea! :D Great thoughts! I totally have to agree with you.
    <3 Inky@ Book Haven Extraordinaire


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