- Illustrations, especially for “encyclopedia” entries
- Side notes, “encyclopedia” style, to explain unusual words or things I reference. I want a city kid to know what I mean when I talk about a chicken’s “wattles”.
- Foot notes—copius. I don’t know why, but I like foot notes. They make me feel like I’m getting something extra out of my book. Maybe a peek into the author’s mind.
- New mores I just make up. EG: I want it to be culturally accepted in my book’s world that NOBODY has children before they’re 30, unless something is terribly wrong with the world.
- 24-hr clocks that run “my way”. This is totally personal. I want clocks (and all time) to be based on NOON. This will impact the culture because it keeps folks aware of sun position, so sunless buildings would be unthinkable. This will also influence folks’ priority on staying aware of/in sync with the natural world, not treating it like “just” a resource or an enemy.
- talk about food – how it’s gathered, prepared, cooked, and eaten. Talk about what food and it’s activities mean to the folks and how they interact. Include one or two passages detailed enough to replicate a real recipe.
- Keep things light. Talk about nice things. Have the characters all be pretty much friendly and cooperative. This isn’t a novel about hardship or evil, but about the challenge of building a beautiful world folks can actually be happy in.
- Use “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Swiss Family Robinson” and “Heidi” and “The Island of the Blue Dolphins” as a model. Whenever unsure how to proceed, turn to one of those books and recall how they used language, and made a story flow.
“The Island of the Blue Dolphins” was the first full-length novel I ever read. I read it when I was seven. It is also one of the very few books I’ve ever loved and that had a deep impact on me, which I’ve never read a second time. I’ll have to go find a copy and re-read that old book to refresh my connection with it. Although…honestly I feel like its words are written on my mind indelibly.