Thursday, May 6, 2010

World-Building



I'm not going to lie to you guys--I don't have the first clue about world-building. You want to know what my idea of WB is? Giving more details. (And I have no idea if this is what I should be doing. Eek!)

What concerns me is the idea that this chaotic world inside my head may never be told the way I see it. I'd love for readers to envision everything perfectly, and imagine the falling stars and Legora and the King's castle as I do.

So where do I begin? I honed in on Andy(my MC)'s thoughts. I mean, really listened and watched. And she showed me things. Things I'd never thought of.

She had said to me, We're in a desert with nothing but sand. The sun burns our skin. But it's the nighttime that scares me the most. At this point, I'm like, whaaaat? If I lived in a world where the sun burned my skin (okay, I did live in this world; it's called Phoenix), then I couldn't wait until night falls. Andy said, You're not listening, Becca. Pay attention. And this is where I sat up and kinda went...whoa. She continued, At night, there are creatures you don't even want to know about. I'm all like ewwwwww. Then she gets impatient with me, so I shut up. She finally said, The bitter cold comes at night, along with the mutated creatures. (mutated creatures? wtf?)

Then it....just...clicked. It's like I needed that extra push for all of the different pieces to fit together.

Of course they live in a world that's seen so many wars that the ozone layer has a gaping hole in it (which will happen to us if you don't go green, people! /rant). Of course the sun and moon are off-kilter; nothing's the same anymore and the two of them cause extreme weather. Of course the stars plummet to Earth. There's barely an ozone layer to slow them down. Of course there's a King in a castle. They have to have some sort of government, don't they? Just because it's the end of the world doesn't mean there aren't laws. Of course there are towns where weary travelers can rest their feet or choose to stay. Of course they're running out of supplies because they can't grow their own food in the heat and cold.

These, my friends, are a foundation for world-building. From there, I can build up. And you can too. Once you have the basic components of your world, you can show the reader whatever the story entails. Remember, even the smallest of details can make a difference. Not only does it show how much time and effort you put into your story, it makes your story feel real.

Now, I'm not the queen of WB by any means. But I do know I can work on it and try to produce a book that's better than anything I've written so far. I can do that with each new WIP.

I want to hear what you guys do when it comes to WB. Do you have any tricks you'd like to share? What are some of your foundations for the world in your mind? Have your characters spoken to you?

12 comments:

  1. oh, worldbuilding. It is NOT easy. Personally, I like to come up with the basics before I start, and let the details come once I've written a few thousand words (or more). It's harder if you're writing a completely different world from our own, be it a post-apocalyptic one, a fantasy one, an alternate universe, etc. Because then you have to do government, clothing, food sources, quality of life...the list goes on and on and on.

    But it's fun!

    Great post.

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  2. I love world building, but it's easy to get so caught up in it that you forget to write the story ;-P

    Have you ever seen one of those home make-over show where they take a boring white wall with no texture and make it look like distressed brick or logs without actually using brick or walls? It takes layer after layer, but in the end the result looks so real you'd have to touch the wall to know the difference.

    WB is a lot like that. You can do it in layers - starting with the characters or location or whatever you start with. Then you fill in some details like gov't or caste or terrain. Hopefully everything meshes at the end so that your world seems like there should be an entry in the Encyclopedia for it, complete with National Geographic photos.

    I think people are more adept at it than they think they'll be. Games like The Sims (and the old Sim City) are basically world building, and people love them.

    LoL, my ver. word is "prizes", and I won one this morning!

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  3. Kaitlin - I'm finding it's not easy to world-build when writing a dystopian. Maybe it doesn't help that it's a dystopian fantasy. XD

    Josin (Cyia!) - I won a prize this morning too! :D I never win anything. lol

    I love the analogy you used with the white wall. I've never thought about it like that before. And you're right--you have to pay attention to the story or you'll get caught up in the WB. I found that I was too focused on details recently rather than what was going on. Not a good thing.

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  4. For me, world building depends on the story. A lot of my stories take place in alternative worlds, so it takes a lot of describing for me to get the readers to see what I see--and I suck at descriptions. There was one story in particular where the world just seemed to be there. I saw it and could describe it clearly, but with other stories, it's been much harder for me. During those hard times, I just wait for it to develop in my head, then try my best to describe everything.

    This was a good post, by the way!

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  5. Aubrie from Flutey Words does it a lot. She's very good at it.

    For my first manuscript, I created a manuscript, but the surroundings were more medieval-like. I don't count that as world-building.

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  6. I am actually trying to climb this mountain as we speak. I just started playing around in a world I built. What I have a problem with is that theres always someting new growing..it never stays the same. Its hard to write something thats always changing.
    I do talk to my characters too, Im sure they're sick of my relationship problems.

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  7. As a ya scifi writer, world building is a passion. I can't help myself. I love it. There is a process but I love creating a collage of the world I'm building from pictures of the strange or unsual. It helps me to remember and imagine.

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  8. Remilda - I agree that it can be hard to describe how we see our worlds. It takes a lot of thinking (IMO) to do this. And even tougher because we could potentially begin to sound redundant with descriptions.

    Theresa - Oooh. I love medieval. :D

    OG - Growing like: you continue to learn more awesome things about that world? Characters can sometimes have great shoulders to lean on. ;)

    LM - You use pictures?! :O That sounds really cool. I've never thought about that! Thanks for sharing. Sci-Fi does use a lot of WB.

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  9. World building is really difficult, but it's coming to me so much easier in this novel than my previous WiP. I've drawn a map, wrote a few pages of background information, things are falling into place--kinda like my MC is explaining everything to me, just like yours.

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  10. Lily - I'm glad it's working out for you. :D

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  11. Great post! World building, description, anything akin to that . . . that's my achilles heal. Still working on it. :)

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  12. Janet - Don't worry! You'll get there. :D

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