The thesis is moving well, and I've started dreaming about my characters. The climax in in full swing and I'm not sure I'm handling it well (that's what revision is for, right?) but the characters keep surprising me and they feel real. Hence the dreaming; I don't usually dream of my characters until they become real enough that I can't control them anymore. IT'S ALIVE!
Anyway, I workshopped the first story of my thesis last week and I've been looking over comments. One of the compliments I got - and yes, there was plenty of criticism; I'm working on it - was that I'm good at setting. A classmate commented that in this piece and another story I wrote the setting felt real. Nebraska feels like Nebraska and Alaska feels like Alaska. I've gotten this comment before about other works. I've been told that my stories make people feel like they're there. They see and smell and feel what that location looks and smells and feels like.
This was weird to me. I don't practice setting like I practice pacing (my weakest skill) and character (the most important skill, to me). But I don't think it's inherent. I've traveled a lot, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the written word. I thought about it, and I think I know why this is working.
I'm a fantasy writer. I need to be able to build a world and then inhabit it. I need to be able to describe everything in a fictional world, from the smells of the food to the feel of the rocks and wood, to how the people speak. I need to be able to sit in my world and watch. This is translating to stories I write in the real world; I sit and watch the people in my memories of these places, in the facts I read about them, in the pictures I look up. I worldbuild the real world.
I bet I'm not alone. I bet other fantasy writers are also finding setting easy or more colorful than expected. I hope so; that means that there is a technical benefit to writing speculative fiction. Worldbuilding translates well to any kind of writing. You can bet I'm going to teach my creative writing students worldbuilding.