Hello everyone! For my stop on the RAIN blog tour today, amazing author Amanda Sun discusses her world building process for the much-awaited sequel to INK! Isn’t that great? Okay, I won’t keep you hanging. Amanda Sun now on the spotlight!
World Building for RAIN
The Paper Gods may take place in modern-day Japan, but that doesn’t mean world building doesn’t come into play. Even when you write something set in a real-life place, you have to make a lot of decisions. How much is true to reality? What are the limits of your magic system? How did your characters come to have the abilities they have? And just how do you add in cultural info without info-dumping or creating a landscape that’s too foreign for readers to follow?
When I was designing the world for The Paper Gods, I did a lot of research into the old stories of the kami. I read the Kojiki, an 8th-century text recording the early creation myths. I read a bunch of Japanese fairy tales, and visited Japanese schools. I interviewed high school students about daily life, slang they used, and activities they liked to pursue. And I referenced the journal I kept while I was an exchange student living in Osaka. Together, all this research produced the bare bones for The Paper Gods.
A lot of the history of the ink is where I got very lucky. In INK, Katie visits Itsukushima Shrine, a shrine I had the opportunity to visit while in Japan, and one that’s widely known for its famous Shinto Torii. It seemed like a good cultural symbol to bring into play. At the same time, Itsukushima Shrine was linked to the kami Susanou, which gave Katie a chance to ask questions about the origins of Kami. I researched Itsukushima and found out that Taira no Kiyomori had spent a lot of money restoring the shrine after it had burned down. Then I researched Taira no Kiyomori, and found out that he was plagued with horrible nightmares at the end of his life, before he finally passed away.
Nightmares? Sounds like Tomo. So I twisted the history just a touch to say that he and Tomo shared the same horrible Kami nightmares, the same dark fate.
In RAIN, I talk about another historical figure who was involved with a lot of the shrines in Shizuoka City—Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was kidnapped as a child by a rival family, and not long after, both his father and one of his captors died suddenly. Ah! Another event that could be twisted just a touch into Kami myth. Instead of building a world entirely, I took the world that was there, and connected it in new ways to create a hopefully believable history for the Kami. Samurai families colliding with the emperor’s descendants? Put the ink into the situation and see what happens.
In a similar way, I wanted Tomo’s drawings to come to life, but I didn’t want to give him too much power. It’s not much of a story if he’s god-like and unstoppable. So I made the drawings unstable. They don’t react the way he wants them to. They come after him and his loved ones. In this way, I was able to build a strange world but still have limits to make things interesting.
I really wanted The Paper Gods above all to be a fun and exciting trip to Japan. I know a lot of readers who are hoping to visit Japan someday, or who have been and want to relive the experience. I hope that The Paper Gods helps to transport you there, without hitting you over the head that you’re in Japan. I try to focus on little details—the humming of vending machines, the food Katie and her friends bring for lunch, the sounds of the school bell—instead of larger scale things like, for example, Tokyo Tower in the distance. I hope the effect is a more subtle world built around them, instead of shouting the location over the plot.
At the end of the day it’s about story. You need to create a world that collides with what the protagonists want and need. It has to restrict them, to go against their goals. I hope you’ll find this thought useful when writing your own worlds ^_^
Thank you very much Amanda for the wonderful guest post! Now we all know why the world of the Paper Gods series is all kinds of extraordinary. 🙂 The RAIN blog tour continues tomorrow at Fragments of Life. Don’t miss it!
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*For the full RAIN blog tour schedule, head over to Amanda Sun’s Tumblr page!