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Portal Fantasy & World Building

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I'm sure there are others writing for portal fantasy. When you write portal fantasy chapter books, how do you balance world building for any particular chapter, and the speed of which you want the chapter to read?

The type of world I originally wanted was actually an alternate world where the Mediterranean section of earth was had tropical islands that were colonized by the French around the early 1800's. So my characters were dressed more fitting to that environment.

Now it's morphed into a similar situation, but instead of areas like Greece and and Sicily, it's more like the French imported various aspects of their culture into the North. Sort of like if Greece (of the ancient Greek era) brought their culture to 19th century Holland and other areas up north.

Yet I'm trying to fit the world building into 18 chapters that are 4 pages each.I'm not even sure where to begin in revision.
#1 - July 08, 2014, 04:46 PM
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So this is a tricky balance, too much description and you drag down the pace and the action, not enough and you disorient the reader. When I write for Middle Grade I tend to keep the descriptions to a minimum or try and sometimes try relate it to something funny or strange that way it keeps attention. I usually don't do more than a sentence or two at time of description in most cases unless for some reason what you are describing is really important.

So how do I keep description to a minimum? I only describe things that are absolutely necessary to the scene. If you are writing an action scene you dont need to know every piece of furniture in the room and what color the walls are and everything else about it. You can skip 90% of it but still show a little to set the tone. And in the terms of what is necessary, if you character is about to trip over a chair, then make sure you mention the chair, but unless that chair is going to affect something else you don't need to know about the couch next to it.

If it helps think of your world as another character. With a character you wouldn't just say it's a blonde haired green eyed girl with jeans, a pink tshirt, sneakers and a headband all at once. You'd sprinkle that descriptive information in a line or two at a time interspersed with what the character is doing. So do the same for you world. And if you are getting bogged down in the size of the world, take a step back and ask yourself if what you have there is absolutely necessary. Sometimes less is more. Draw attention to what is important and let the rest fade into the background.
#2 - July 09, 2014, 09:11 AM

Looking at it that way, I could try plotting the world. Just to study how it trickles. Thanks!^^
#3 - July 09, 2014, 01:19 PM
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I agree with Jamie, and will add an idea... I think that you could also intertwine some of the subtler elements of your world with mood, as another way of directing which points about the world are relevant.
#4 - July 14, 2014, 12:50 PM
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 12:52 PM by tara-giller »
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Actually in support of that, I was considering refining and accentuating the nature vs. man (as suppose to man vs. nature) element with the story structure.

Super-nature as one might call it. That's a recurring element I noticed in rereading. Ex. Forests that seem to go on forever, and plants that are man eating.

The subplot is there, just unrefined.
#5 - July 15, 2014, 05:56 PM
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If you haven't read the Magic Treehouse books, give them a read. Mary Pope Osbourne introduces a new culture and historical setting in almost every book in very few words and details.

I think alternate history is a little tough for this age if it's important that they recognize it as alternate history. Readers in 2nd or 3rd grade may either think the whole thing is made up, or believe that it's true because they don't know the actual history. Good luck!

#6 - July 15, 2014, 07:52 PM
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What would  be a good pairing with it? I've been curious about some sort of contrast between portal fantasy and magic realism, just because of the particular way I handle magic.

The two I have in mind: Harry Potter and Magic Tree House.
#7 - July 19, 2014, 09:02 PM
« Last Edit: July 19, 2014, 09:08 PM by SarahW »
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If you haven't read the Magic Treehouse books, give them a read. Mary Pope Osbourne introduces a new culture and historical setting in almost every book in very few words and details.

I think alternate history is a little tough for this age if it's important that they recognize it as alternate history. Readers in 2nd or 3rd grade may either think the whole thing is made up, or believe that it's true because they don't know the actual history. Good luck!

I think this is why they came out with the companion books. Of course, they also have a letter to the readers if I recall. The letter detailed what was true and what inspired the story. It's been a while since I read them to my daughter.
#8 - July 21, 2014, 11:09 AM
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