Originally posted on 1/17/10 for the
Charge of the Write Brigade.
We all write in our own worlds. World building is as natural to the writer as breathing.
Maybe you have a space saga with strange planets or a fantasy epic with golden lands populated with elves and dragons. Some of us spend time in the past where knights rescue ladies or gunfighters meet at high noon. In your world monsters could exist, be they romantic immortals who have gotten a bad rep or horrific demons of old who’d rather eat you than look at you. Does your story take place within a secret society of magic users or deep within an ancient institution where deep coded secrets await discovery? Maybe your world is the tough crime ridden streets of New York or a quiet suburbia where your heroine tries to avoid love?
Regardless of where you place it, the scope of your world is governed by the scope of your story.
My first novel is set in the frontier colonies of the New World. Moving from smoggy, crowded London, Annabelle finds the peaceful clean air a stark contrast to her first ten years of life. The fresh smell of pine and the crisp sound of chopping wood becomes a comfort to her.
There can be pain and pleasure to writing about the real world and real history. It means tons of research so the past you use is as accurate as can be. I must read books, watch period shows, search out and save web pages about certain topics and set up a 2nd home on the History Channel. I save pictures of period style clothing and maps of locations, preferably from the era’s I’m writing about. All the while trying to imagine my characters strolling those old streets and seeing those historic events.
World building research isn’t just for historical fiction. In the realms of Sci-Fi and fantasy you still need governments, currency, food, entertainment, transportation and history
Base it on the real world. Ok, you’re writing about happy elves that live in a tree and make cookies. Who is the head elf? How did he or she become head elf? What is the hierarchy? Are they paid? Why do they live in tree houses? Are they hiding from something? What do they do on their time off?
We each find our own ways to create our worlds. Long walks, music and prior concepts we want to change are some ways. Recently I discovered one of my own.
I’m taking a break from friendly child vampires and trying my hand at regular fantasy. I’ve created my own mythical world of elves, dwarves, mermaids and dragons called Farnalla.
To create Farnalla I needed to make a map. Because of the nature of the story, I needed to think about the various mythical creatures and how they would migrate across the globe. This led to several maps, each covering a different era in their history.
As I created and altered the tribal and later, national boundaries, my mind had to do something. So it wandered. I found myself explaining to my daughters (whom were fascinated at the story) why the elves and fauns would merge their tribes, why the giants and dragons went to war over the mountains, and so on.
Before I knew it, I had an outline for the world’s entire history up to the present day when the novel starts.
That’s one way to world build. What are your favorite ways ?