The Importance of World Building

A Better Understanding for Your Reading Experience

My Dear Fellow Readers,

I’m always pondering about what the writer’s intentions and thoughts are when creating a story. How the readers’ perceptions vary and if they’re what the author is conveying. As an avid reader and one who reviews books, there are themes and elements to the story that I feel make the story equally come to life. The core of a believable story is world building and realistic characterization, in my opinion. These ingredients combined help drive the plot, the character’s movements, motives, and pull the reader in.

I believe contrasts in world building are an important structure for stories to work. For example: The key setting or location, if you will, of the story and how it is described. The contrast would be another location shown in a different light all together. What distinguishes one place to another? Readers want to feel transported to time and place. Tone, mood, senses and atmospheric surroundings is key. Even down to the little details, such as a table, how it looks and how it’s positioned in a room. The juxtaposition of the furniture, if you will. Landscape is another element that needs contrast, which plays a role in how and where the characters feel the most vulnerable or the safest. Is it daylight, nighttime or is the weather cold, warm, dry or rainy? Does the writer include these details at all?

I remember this one book I read where a scene took place out to sea. The way the writer described the swaying ship sailing along the water surface with the waves crashing against the sides of the ship, the spray of water on their faces and the smell of the salty air. It was as if I was standing on the deck, experiencing the elements myself. What an experience!

On the other hand, I’ve read stories that took place in the 18th century and you would have a young family member of a great house sneak in the kitchen to speak to the cook or to grab what food they could muster, and you didn’t have a sense for the 18th century kitchen life.There is a vast difference between the 18th century kitchen and the 21st century kitchen. Modern readers need to experience that through writer’s historical stories. Imagine a 18th century great house with the a kitchen bustling with activity and observing the sounds and sights of people moving to and throw. The kitchen servants preparing food to be cooked by fire or coal. Kitchens in the 18th century were not a place of luxury and you didn’t have family members entertaining at the kitchen table. Those rooms were usually dark, hot and prone to catch on fire. These kitchens were situated as far as possible from the families social and private spaces. For instance, in the 19th century, many homes in America, particularly in the south, built their kitchens in a separate building out back because the danger of fires. Not only that but the servants day started before sun up and didn’t end until late in the night, then their day started again shorty after that. Pay attention to those details.

Social and cultural elements are equally important in regards to contrasts in world building. Readers must learn something from the character’s social standing, beliefs, traditions, life experience that is good or bad, their surroundings and manner of speech that is in contrast or similar to theirs. The list goes on…

Questions to think about when reading/reviewing a story: Were you transported to time and place? Can you picture the scene in your mind’s eye? Can you visualize the characters movements and imagine their senses as if they were your own? Did you make a connection? What have you learned from them and how did they impact you? If you can answer yes to all these questions and feel impacted positively by the story, then that is a sign of a great read. I admire authors who take their world building seriously.

There’re innumerable ways writers create their worlds. Many writers map out their world before beginning to write their story. I’m always curious about other writers’ methods and what works for them. Especially, with the social structure in certain walks of life that is not their own. I also believe there is a fine balance with world building. I’ve read books where the writer got bogged down by the characters’ surroundings, that the plot was lost in the world being created.

A short list of books I enjoyed with remarkable world building:

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

Dune by Frank Herbert

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My wish for newbie book reviewers is to be inspired by these observations, the list of books I provided and to have a better understanding how stories should work.

Regards,

Stephanie Hopkins

Journals are Treasures

I genuinely don’t know what I’d do without my journals. Do you journal or keep a notebook? Do you feel the same way? This leather-bound journal was gifted to me by my daughter in 2017 for my birthday. I mostly reserve the pages for special moments and an occasional art spread. I still have many pages left to fill and this past Saturday, I felt compelled to collage and used this journal for the task. The center piece on the left side is a secret pocket where I can tuck in a sheet of my writing.

I have even painted and added mixed media textures to a few of the pages. I don’t work in any particular order in most of my journals, except for my morning journal.

Journals are treasures to cherish. They’re the keepers of your innermost thoughts, memories to cherish, prayers, biblical studies, dreams, and trials you may face. They are your best friend, your confidant.

Be sure to follow out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art Gallery, here at Layered Pages!

My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Dust Needs to Settle

We had quite the storm this past Saturday evening of heavy rain, strong wind and lightning. On the back screened porch Sunday morning, everything was damp and the southern humidity didn’t help matters. At least the birds were in song and the coffee was strong. I was sitting on the back porch, not sure how long that was going to last, to write letters, organize to-do lists and to jot down thoughts about, The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah. In the picture, you see John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, you say. “Where’s, The Four Winds?” I bought this copy of The Grapes of Wrath back in 92′ and yes, it’s still in great condition. Gosh, saying that makes me feel old.

To answer your question, assuming you’re asking it, I’m re-visiting The Grapes of Wrath because The Four Winds is a good companion and the stories are still relevant today. They both give you a fountain of information to think about and I have so much to say about both of them. The Four Winds is resting on one of my bookshelves. I will be un-shelving the book soon to gather some marked passages and discuss both books with its contrasts and similarities.

This will be a rather ongoing project and perhaps will share in bits and pieces at Layered Pages. Each post will be linked, so you many keep up with this project, if you wish.

Stephanie Hopkins

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Published April 10th 2014 by Viking (first published April 14th 1939)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression, a book that galvanized—and sometimes outraged—millions of readers.

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads—driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Published February 2nd 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Cover Crush: Upstream (Selected Essays) by Mary Oliver

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

About the Cover:

This cover reminds me of the walks I used to take in the mountains of North Georgia in the fall time. The scenery was breathtaking and very much like the one you see on the cover. The misty sky evokes tone and mood, while the water invites creek walking and pebble exploring. Or one can sit along the grassy edge of the creek, while soaking up the gentle sounds of water continuously flowing, the rustling sounds in the trees and listen to the song of birds.

About the Book:

How is it that I have not yet had the pleasure of reading this author’s work? Or maybe I have? Oh, my, this will not do. I must find a copy of Upstream as soon as possible.  

The cover and book description speak to my soul. Mary Oliver has captured my attention with her admiration for nature and love of poetry writing. -Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Comprising a selection of essays, Upstream finds beloved poet Mary Oliver reflecting on her astonishment and admiration for the natural world and the craft of writing. 

As she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, finding solace and safety within the woods, and the joyful and rhythmic beating of wings, Oliver intimately shares with her readers her quiet discoveries, boundless curiosity, and exuberance for the grandeur of our world.

This radiant collection of her work, with some pieces published here for the first time, reaffirms Oliver as a passionate and prolific observer whose thoughtful meditations on spiders, writing a poem, blue fin tuna, and Ralph Waldo Emerson inspire us all to discover wonder and awe in life’s smallest corners.

About the Author:

“In a region that has produced most of the nation’s poet laureates, it is risky to single out one fragile 71-year-old bard of Provincetown. But Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1983, is my choice for her joyous, accessible, intimate observations of the natural world. Her Wild Geese has become so popular it now graces posters in dorm rooms across the land. But don’t hold that against her. Read almost anything in New and Selected Poems. She teaches us the profound act of paying attention—a living wonder that makes it possible to appreciate all the others.”

Website

Mary Oliver’s profile picture and book cover are from goodreads. Be sure to check out my art journey on Instagram and at my Mixed Media Art gallery here at Layered Pages! My wish is for you to be inspired and encouraged.

What World Building Includes

Photo by Stephanie Hopkins

A Reader’s Perceptive

World building serves the purpose to establish, time period, location, landscape, climate, and cultural surroundings. Its foundation of these elements is important for the reader to be transported in the character’s world. By accomplishing this, a writer must research and understand the world they are creating. Saying where your story takes place and adding a few notable locations, and buildings, doesn’t cut it. Make the reader believe they are there.

Use the Senses

You want your readers to be fully engaged in your story. It is a must!

Examples: Do your readers hear the horse’s hoofs on the cobble stone road drawing near? Do they see the dense fog rolling in the city’s streets? Does the reader know the culture’s way of dress, social class norms and rules? What are the events happening in the period they are living in? Such as, how things are made, talked about, and what is the population like? How do they get along or what are their resources? The list goes on…

I read a great story recently but didn’t feel transported to the time period. Which made it harder to understand the character’s actions. World building is vital.

Stephanie Hopkins

Life’s Simple Pleasures

2020 Journal Overview

Life has its ups and downs and it is vital for one to find the simple things in daily tasks to keep moving forward. One of my pleasures in life is journaling. Whether it be art journaling, creating a new DIY journal or just writing an entry, brings me peace.  

Whenever I sit at my desk or reading chair to journal, I’m reminded of the time I was gifted my first diary at a young age. The memory is forever cherished in my heart and with it brings an appreciation for the pastime of writing my thoughts down. When you express your thoughts and feelings on paper, it is an extraordinary record of moments in your life.

My first diary was an Anne Of Green Gables Journal filled with Anne’s saying and little passages of her story written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Lucy’s beloved story is inspired by notes she wrote as a young girl in rural Canada.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the first adaption growing up. Looking back at what I wrote, I filled that diary with such strong emotions for one so young. Those were certainly captivating times…

Completed Journals

Last year I completed several journals shown above.  I really grew in my craft with these journals and making them, I was encouraged to keep writing and create art throughout the troubled year.

The journals shown below are my on-going ones that I write in from time to time. The earliest ones were started in 2014 and 2017. If you’ve never kept a journal before, I want to encourage you to start. You’ll learn, and grow mentally while providing yourself with valuable insight of your surroundings and your inner-self through life’s journey. -Stephanie Hopkins

On-going Journals

Images may be subjected to copyright. In order to use art images or any content on Layered Pages platform, please ask permission from Stephanie Hopkins

2020 Index Card Challenge: Part 15

Index Card Art

I have neglected to post my completed Index Card Art Challenge until now. I was supposed to share the final outcome a few weeks back. I must explain why I haven’t sooner. When your writing muse awakens from a deep slumber, one must bear down the hatches before the moment passes. What a wonderful writing experience it has been and, I believe it will continue for quite sometime. Forming new writing habits has really helped.

I thought of a couple ways to share my journey in this challenge and one of them was to take a picture of all the cards together and talk about each one. That task seemed a bit daunting to me. Not that I don’t enjoy talking about creativity, mind you. We’re talking about a hundred cards and I believe the previous posts and the art shown speaks for itself.

Today I’m sharing the final (days 96-100) cards. I will link the previous posts down below for you to take a look into this worth-while pursuit. This challenge has taught me a lot about my creative side and has built my confidence further with creating smaller pieces of art and blending brighter colors I had not beforehand.

If you are looking for a new craft to pursue, or you want to challenge yourself in creating daily art, this endeavor is for you.

My next art feature will be about creating art on Rolodex Cards! Now that has been a challenge since the cards are a lot smaller than the index cards.

Stephanie Hopkins

Index Card Challenge Links:

Parts I / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12 / 13 /

14

The Bullet Journal Method

On November 11th, I discussed forming positive reading habits and I mentioned a few steps I was taking to incorporate reading every day. One of the topics, was to use better system on organizing my notes and using the Bullet Journal method for that purpose.

In my research about this style of journaling, I soon discovered a writer who wrote a book on this very subject. Ryder Carroll’s, “The Bullet Journal Method”, explores what it means to live an intentional life. The journal is to help you develop mindfulness and use the Bullet Journal as a medium for productivity. I’ve added Carroll’s book to my to-read list and I’m looking forward to delving in the practice.

Why the the method is important for me to improve on a number of activities.

  1. Accountability.
  2. To strengthen my organization skills.
  3. To encourage daily reading and writing.
  4. To help me remember details in stories that have made an impression on me and that I feel are important to focus on in my reviews, or to further research.
  5. To keep learning and growing intellectually.

The five steps I mentioned are just a few of habits I want my focus to be on with my reading and writing. I’m confident that Carroll’s book will be helpful with my journey.

I’m still not entirely certain what medium I will use for my journal. I’m leaning towards altering a book. That way I can create art pages and add images as well that relate to the story. Of course, you can do that with a blank notebook or an actual journal. I prefer to use what I have on hand to limit my spending. I’m really looking forward to this worth-while endeavor and sharing my progress with you all.

Be sure to read, before the second sleep’s post on, Bullet Journaling 101. There are wonderful insights on the art of using the Bullet Journal method and how you can utilize the journal in other ways.

Help support Layered Pages to keep providing great content by donating to our PayPal Tip Jar. Thank you! -Stephanie Hopkins

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Stephanie Hopkins

Has Mixed Media Art Really Evolved that Much?

I’ve pondered about how I wanted to talk about mixed media art’s origins for quite sometime now. Which is difficult because I know I will ruffle some feathers with a few of my comments about the industry today.  

Allow me to first begin by giving a little lesson of what the craft represents. Or mediums, I should say, because mixed media art is taking different types of materials and combining them to make art. Whether it is paper, paint, wood, metal, clay, leaves, tree bark, thread, textile, plastic, and collage. Really this form of art can be made from anything. It’s combining two or more elements of materials that makes it mixed media art.

For the most part, the Art industry tells us that mixed media art began around 1912 with artists such as Picasso and Georges Braque. While I understand the art shift during that period-I’ve studied art history- these artists brought it to the forefront, the medium itself is much older than the turn of the 20th Century.

Today’s mixed media art is widely known for collage, 3-D arrangements of objects, multi-media, altered books, art tags, ATCs-which have been created much longer than one might think-and other mediums not listed.

Who are some of these leading mixed media artists today that sell supplies and their brand to create many of these wonderful art projects?

Not too long ago, scrap-booking was all the rage and many of the mixed media artists we see today, evolved their scrapbook supply business to mixed media art. Meaning, the industry changed somewhat and people started channeling their memory recording to different methods, such as altering books, making junk journals and so on… Now don’t get me wrong; people have been doing this for generations. Decades really. Actually, since ancient times. People back in the day didn’t have the volume of materials we do today and they would use what materials they had around their home and the land around them.

Inspiration is a wonderful thing and we all put our spin on the craft or add our own style to make it our own. We find solace and comfort in crafting.

It is wonderful we have so many creative people sharing their techniques they’ve learned but please don’t be fooled that they are always originals. Even the designs or supplies they use to sell are not all originals. I’ve seen many of the designs, stencils and ephemera used for sale long before they came out with them online and from other sources. I do understand and know about copyright, out of print and buying rights…but please don’t pass them off as your creations or never correct people when they say how brilliant your designs are.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire many artists in this field but I keep my eyes open and I’m aware that the true founders of the craft are originated from many civilizations long ago. I look forward to discussing further about the question of has mixed media art really evolved that much? Or the mind-set that goes into the craft-if you will.

Keep learning. Keep creating. Be you. You got this!

Stephanie Hopkins

Greetings From Layered Pages

Hello Fellow Readers and Artists,

I hope this letter finds you well and you’ve had a lovely and productive week. My hours have been filled with writing, reading, studying, new art projects and reflection. I have many exciting posts to share with you all in the coming weeks and months.

I did complete my index card art challenge a few days ago. However, I am not featuring them this week after all. Next week I will be sharing the remaining cards I created with a picture(s) of the entire collection (100 cards) as well.

If you haven’t already, please, take the time to read at my posts from earlier on this week. I want to wish you all a lovely and blessed weekend.

I leave you with a quote from Charles Dickens.

“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”    

Regards,

Stephanie Hopkins