Hello everyone and welcome to day 6 of YA MONTH! Today I have the wonderful Caighlan Smith, author of Children Of Icarus on my blog today with a fun guest post! Definitely give it a read and then check out her book. It is fantastic and one of my favourites from last year.
As a child, Caighlan Smith loved to build and navigate pillow mazes. An adoration of Greek mythology soon followed. Canadian born and raised, Smith studied English Literature and Classics at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first novel was published when she was nineteen.
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6 YA Fantasy World-Building Must-Haves According to an Author with Particular but Probably not that Uncommon Tastes which aren’t Soundly Justified Herein but Nonetheless Have Been Organized into a Checklist for You
I have just promised you a checklist, in so many irregularly capitalized words. But I also mentioned I’m an author, and we authors (are supposed to) know how to build suspense. Ergo, I am making you wait on the checklist (provided you don’t subvert my maniacal plans and skip down to said checklist). Now, let me take a moment to acquaint you with my latest novel, Children of Icarus, published summer 2016 and available at the usual places. Children of Icarus, in one sentence, is the story of a girl trapped in a labyrinth of monsters. When I say monsters, I don’t just mean the figurative “we all have our inner demons and oh-boy do survivalist settings bring them out!” I mean literal monsters. Claws, scales, wings, etc. I like monsters. Which brings me to a neat and definitely not contrived segue to the afore-promised checklist.
Any kind of monsters will do. You can snag some monstrous prototypes from mythology (as I may or may not obviously do in Children of Icarus). You can throw together some Lovecraftian horrors. Or everything could just be dragons. It is all acceptable.
Hydration is important. So is personal hygiene. (Fun Fact about water: you can put krakens in it.)
3. Not Too Much Water
Some of us are not strong swimmers.
In constructing a world, I love it when the writer has clearly paid attention to the atmosphere – a gloomy world with grey skies and Gothic architecture? Yes, please. A fluffy, lighthearted world with cloud castles, which still manages to make your skin prickle, because it turns out all the fluff is covering up a corrupt cyborg government? Sure. A starkly realistic and thought-provoking world despite the banshees in helicopters? Okay. Atmosphere – strong atmosphere – gives your world its own unique flavour. It also protects your world inhabitants from the sun.
5. World Inhabitants
It is a grave injustice to create a lovely, geologically diverse, monster-strewn world and not let anyone inhabit it but the monsters. You don’t want the monsters to eat each other, do you? No, of course not. That would be a disaster.
6. Home Base
Every story needs a solid opening location – a square one, a District 12, a Pallet Town. Somewhere our intrepid and/or incompetent and probably ridiculously attractive (whether they know it or not) young adult protagonists can (1) begin their epic quest, (2) take their first steps to unravelling the dystopian empire, (3) return to at the end of the prophesized supernatural wars, (4) abandon because it is boring and life – and, more importantly, the novel – should be exciting, or (5) attend high school. Yep. Sometimes home base is the always-and-forever-only-setting-in-this-story base. And you know what? If that forever home base is one with chimeras lurking in the dumpster behind the old diner, then I’m happy to put it on this checklist.
So there you go. That is my checklist for YA world-building must-haves. Do I always follow it in my writing? No. Unfortunately, I let myself down over and over again. For instance, many of my story ideas feature worlds without enough water. Or enough atmosphere (see: stories in space). BUT does Children of Icarus check all the boxes on this checklist? If there were boxes, it definitely does, yes. So does the sequel, Children of Daedala, which comes out spring 2018. Spoiler: There are monsters.
It's Clara who's desperate to enter the labyrinth and it's Clara who's bright, strong and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It's no surprise when she's chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.