Saturday, January 15, 2011

End of the World As We Know It; Dangers of too much world building

Originally posted on 2/7/10 for the

Charge of the Write Brigade.

Last time I wrote about the joys of world building. I went on to explain the fun of creating your own world and how to build on that for many future stories.

Today I’d like to touch on the dangers. Yup. There are dangers. Not danger in the sense of the word where your mouse will bite you if you click it again. I’m talking about distraction and procrastination.

Yes, those two evils that destroy a writer’s potential. Two of our greatest adversaries lurk within world building, waiting to strike.

A friend of mine has an amazing imagination. He’s inspired by many writers to sit down an pen the great American novel. He lives on the other side of my state, too far to visit. Because of this distance, we keep in touch through nightly chats on the phone. I respect him a great deal and expect him to soar if he put his mind to it.

Some nights we discuss writing and our mutual progress. When ever he speaks of his ideas I’m entertained to great concepts involving wonderful plot twists and well thought out characters. He tells me of histories and back stories and future plans where multiple novels revolves around generations of heroes and villains.

But in every story, on all the many worlds he’s discussed over twenty years of discussions (not always nightly, but that’s still a long time) I know there is one question that will always have the same answer.

“Have you actually begun writing this book?”

“Well no. It’s all just in the planning stages.”

Now to be fair, he did write two short stories and a chapter. But this makes it worse in my mind because I now know he can do it. I know all these great ideas are more than wishful dreams. I realize he can do something wonderful with them if he’s just sit down and do it.

As writers, we can’t help but create worlds. It’s in our blood. It’s a wonderful ability and our main super power. But there must come a time where we sit our butts down and WRITE THE DANG NOVEL. We need to call a time out, take these ideas and actually begin the sentences, paragraphs and ultimately the chapters of our projects.

We can get distracted in the big picture and caught up in our creations. We love how it all fits together. It’s so amazing! We want to take out outlines or notes and run right out and shout our incredible discovery to the masses.

But they won’t ‘get’ it. It’s raw. Sure, our friends, family, fans and support groups may even sit beside us in eager anticipation as we expound upon our creations, but it don’t mean jack if it never becomes an actual story.

Anyone who has actually written a novel knows that your plans change during the telling of the story. The characters’ voice alters things. Sometimes they won’t play as instructed. If you never begin, how will you discover these changes?

So why do we do it? Are we to afraid to start? Maybe. Is our time limited? Definitely.

What do we do about it?

Set a time limit or goal. Make a plan like “I will build for a week or a month, then begin writing this monster.”

Write something about your world. Start a scene to get in the flow. You don’t have to keep it and it doesn’t have to be in chronological order. Set a time and jump in.

So if you’re trapped in your own worlds, jump on to a chair and just write.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Part of Your World: The Joys of World Building

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 ?