Dawn Montgomery

Travel and TMI

In Workshops on May 2, 2011 at 8:16 pm

 All content © Dawn Montgomery 

TMI: Too much information. In your worldbuilding, I’m sure you’ve created amazing things. Wonderful inventions for travel. Unbelievable magical items. In your world building notes, you should definitely expand on these items, explain how they work or whether your character knows how it works (that could be part of the fun, a la the Greatest American Hero).

Your readers (me included!) don’t want to see the explanation, however. Think about real life. I use a microwave. Do I, as the average user, have ANY idea how a microwave works? No. Do I need to know how it works? Nope. If it breaks I take it to a repair shop where HE/SHE has to know how it works. If it can’t be repaired, I buy a new one. Easy, right?

So how does this tie in with Travel?

Glad you asked…

Travel can be any mode, whether walking from place to place within a home to telekinetically launching a space craft to another world. Some of my most memorable reading moments involved unique travel ideas.

Barron Harkonnen from the Prelude to Dune Trilogy, Dune, and Children of Dune. He was so obese that he required anti-gravity units called suspensors. This caused complications that eventually ended in his death.

Who doesn’t remember the icy cold of between in The Dragonriders of Pern series? It was mentioned on several occasions that one never got used to the cold nothingness of between. It was imperative to the movement and survival of the dragons, so was, therefore, integral to the plot.

If your character uses teleportation as an every day occurrence, unless he or she has an unusual fear of the physics and mechanics involved, your character wouldn’t explain in his/her head how it worked.

I don’t get in my car and go through my checks in individual thought. Years of practice has me adjusting my seat, putting on my seat belt, starting the car, and verifying that there are no warning signs (low oil, low gas, check tire pressure). Years of habit has me doing that automatically. If the car breaks down, or shows a warning light, I know what has to be done. Have your characters react to an issue, not bore us to death with details.

Too much information is a pace killer in most books.

TMI and travel go hand in hand. Traveling from one point to another is a great transition piece. If no plot point exists on this trip…why are you making it? Don’t force your character to sit at a train window and stare at the endless expanse of marigolds and sunflowers. If she’s noticing this, it had better in some way affect the story line. Perhaps she had only seen desert land before. It would be a comparative statement for character development. Perhaps she’s looking out the window to avoid being recognized, but sees the reflection of the man she’s running from in the window.

Do I care that the bullet train runs on magnetic propulsion? No. Not until the magnetic resonance is destroyed, causing the train to crash. Would my heroine know what had happened? Maybe. It would be speculation until she finds out how the specifics (and here’s the killer…she (and the reader) may NEVER find out how it happened).

In Seduced in Shadow, I needed a way for my heroine and villain to cross over into the human world. There are a lot of options. A magical gateway, a dream sequence, a hidden door, or even a spell. Perhaps there is only one time a year that the doorway opens. Maybe when it does open, you have to exchange something. When the human comes through, a magical item must pass over. Equal exchange (one of my favorite rules. For every action an equal an opposite reaction must occur…even in magic).

Getting from one point to another in your story is a very important part of world building. Description should flow easily, and just like with location before, it should add to the overall story line.

One last little note: remember the advice of the great Orson Scott Card, call a rabbit a rabbit. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, don’t call it a gildersnaff. Your readers are intelligent enough to know that your characters are speaking their own language.

Worldbuilding, an introduction

Creating Characters

Worldbuilding: Creating Rules

Choosing your location

A special thank you to Kim Knox, my workshop beta reader. Up next, the world building conclusion.

  1. […] Travel and TMI: When details bog down the story […]

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