Just Write

World Building With Words

“Readers seek the experience of the world through character emotion and consciousness. What we remember about books and movies is the way they made us feel/experience, which is why we crave another story-hit, more, more, more.” — Juneta Key, “A Look at World Building and the Reader Experience”

Juneta elaborates:

Use your character’s emotional attachment to places, things, and feeling of home–longing, or contentment, or discontentment. World building is an external and internal journey with the character.

World building includes using all the senses, to create atmosphere, texture, and attachment:  Sight, Smell, Touch, Hearing, Taste, and 6th sense. 


Anne of Green Gables L. M. Montgomery uses the senses and emotions in such a way that her world is a character in itself.  Read the free Project Gutenberg ebook.

Chapter 1: First paragraph:

“MRS. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.”

You will notice MRS is all capitalized. 

Immediately we know she is important to the story.

She relates the character to us via the world building (setting).  

Simile and metaphor are the vehicle of setting that create visually and emotionally strong images in our minds. She uses the setting to tell the reader  about the character’s attitude, disposition and temperament. The further you read the more she builds on this and strengthens the scene paragraph after paragraph. 

Montgomery particularly uses the river to describe and create a parallel impression of the road, specifically the people passing by MRS. Rachel Lynde’s home. 

 MRS. is a busy body cataloging details while sitting at her window. Through the use of a ferret, as a comparison tool, she demonstrates the trait of persistence for MRS. following every crumb in pursuit of other people’s business.    

If you think about it, the senses are triggered in that paragraph even though sound is not mentioned exactly. The sound of flowing water—a river, the sound of people passing by on the road, the sound of children—it’s implied, I don’t know about you but I heard it.

Originally posted 8/15/2022 in Insecure Writer’s Support Group, as mentioned in Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris (8/7/2022).

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