Multi-Purpose Worldbuilding

This post was originally written for Star-Crossed Romance.

In The Moonlight Mistress, werewolves are an important element. However, the world they live in is much like our world; the werewolves exist as “secret history.” Though several of the characters know about the existence of werewolves, and one finds out about them in the course of the novel, for the most part they exist out of sight.

The setting of the novel is World War One Europe, so the primary worldbuilding for the novel consists of historical detail. Also, it’s an erotic novel, so sexual relationships are also very important. But I wanted the paranormal elements to be inextricable from the rest. If any one of the three elements was removed — history, erotica, werewolves — the story would collapse.

I’ve always been told that every detail of a story should be relevant in more than one aspect, and that’s even more important in speculative fiction, where so many more details are required. For example, a particular song and its topic tell the reader something about the world as well as something about the character who’s chosen that song to sing. If the character is singing too loudly, he might alert his enemies and thus propel the plot forward. I tried to use duplicate or triplicate relevance whenever the werewolves appeared in the story.

First, the werewolves served a plot purpose. The main romantic couple in the story meet because the hero is trying to gain information about a secret laboratory studying werewolves; later, when he shares this with the heroine, it demonstrates that a level of trust has been established between them. Her reaction shows how she’s come to feel about him. When they take action together (deepening their relationship) to save the werewolves, again the werewolves are propelling the plot. At the same time, the personal relationship between two werewolves comments on the relationship between the main couple; both couples are thrown together because of the war, and both pairs discover they have something powerful in common.

One of the soldier characters is a werewolf. He has werewolf problems which draw in his human friends and have consequences for them. Each time he acts like a werewolf, the plot is moving, his character is being reinforced, and the reader is being reminded that they’re reading a fantasy.

Related posts:

Historical Detail in Fiction.

Types of Paranormal Romance.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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