Wow! It’s over for another year – but then again, it’s not really over, since there are all those new friends I made when visiting – and all those I missed out. Although I feel I did better than some years, I only got to the first 200 on the sign-up list, plus about four visits each to those I’d saved from the Theme Reveal. I wonder whether I was better organised this year, since I also had to fit in Camp NaNoWriMo (and finished the second book in my Viridian System series).
When I thought of doing a world-building theme, I really intended to help myself enrich my own world of the Viridian System series books (I’ve been writing book 2 at Camp Nano during the April mornings, and A to Zing the rest of the day!). Then I thought you might not find that so interesting, and did 11 Viridian world posts and fifteen others. That included six author interviews (seven including me!), and I’d like to thank the authors involved for answering my questions so lucidly. The final question I asked them was ‘what advice would you give to budding world-builders?” The answers were so brilliant, so insightful, that I thought I’d repeat them here. I think it says everything I could say about what I’ve learnt during this year’s challenge. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to contact those other authors I wanted to. Then again, it did make the posts rather long for an AtoZ. (Click the author’s name to link back to their full interview)
Advice for Budding World Builders
- Read in your genre until your writing becomes intuitive. This takes a long time I guess, and I am personally not quite there yet. Read other people’s work, taking careful note how they structure the beginning, middle and end of a chapter. This is the best method to get your story appropriate for your target age, engaging in concept and exciting to the very end. Julie Grasso
- Take your time. Live in the world and present its dimensions through how characters respond to obstacles. Allow surprises and inventive elements of the climate or location to drive the journey story. Don’t be afraid to name places or specific repeated responses differently for a new perspective. For example, on the dry savannah before the rains, dust columns swirl in the growing wind. The tribespeople call these Tunanim and claim they are ancestors announcing the change of seasons. Stella Atrium
- These are the things that have worked for me… we’re all different so it’s not set in stone but bear in mind that my stories are character driven and tend to take place in parallel or different worlds because I’m too lazy to do any proper research! M T McGuire
- Try not to force it or it will feel phony to the reader – and you!
- Concentrate on the story. Set the basic ground rules and then let the characters do stuff. As you watch them going about their day to day business, the world in which they live will start to appear.
- Less is more; although by all means describe stuff in huge detail when you’re writing the first draft if it helps. Just be aware that it will slow things down. Unless you can incorporate it into some action or make it an incidental part of a conversation about something else, you’ll probably have to take it out.
- Be prepared to rip it up and start again. I reckon I probably bin at least a third of the words I write. For example, K’Barthan 3 and 4 stand at about 250,000 words all told and I wrote at least 70,000 that I had to bin.
- Find your own way. Any wannabe world builders reading this remember that, ultimately, the only person who can build your world with any coherence and realism is you, so what I’ve put here are the things that help me. You may be totally different in your approach; the biggest challenge in all of this is finding your own personal method that works. I confess that bit took me about 13 years – I’m a bit slow on the uptake, me – but most folks are quicker than I am.
- Think Things Through. When you put a city in a spot, think about why. What’s supporting it? What factors make it necessary or even possible for a city to be there? Cultural issues work the same way. Think about your own cultural assumptions. Are you making judgments on other cultures, or can you look at those cultures as they might see themselves? That’s really hard and none of us can overcome or even be aware of all our biases, but the more we think about it and try to work with it, the more developed our imaginary cultures will be. Judith Tarr
- I’m not one to create a whole world bible before I sit down to start writing — sometimes, especially if it’s for a stand-alone novel, I’ll world-build on the fly — but it’s worth remembering that characters have to be a product of their cultures. Whether you create the world or the protagonist first, you need to make sure things are logical and that the character you’ve created makes sense for the culture that he or she comes from. Everyone wants to create “strong female characters” right now, which isn’t wrong, but if your heroine comes from a society in which women are considered property and aren’t educated, then you’ve got to come up with a very convincing backstory as to why your heroine is so different from the norm. Lindsay Buroker
- Charles E Yallowitz
- Keep notes about what you create or at least where you can find the information in the book.
- Sometimes you can let the characters dictate the world’s direction. This might sound strange or even counterintuitive, but you can find yourself having trouble with a scene because you’re fighting the character. The original plan goes against something that you sense is wrong and it simply isn’t working.
- Observe the world around you and never be afraid to stop for research. Fantasy worlds have plants, animals, and people like the real world, so you can use your observations to give more details.
- Have fun with it. This is a really simple tip. If you’re having fun creating the world then many of your readers will sense that and enjoy it as well.
- Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your world won’t be either. Creating a new world takes lots of patience and persistence. Take the time needed to build the world the way you envision it. Rework your manuscript as many times as needed to make it flow and reflect your vision. Most importantly, remember to have fun and don’t get discouraged. JS Jaeger
and finally my own contribution, since I interviewed myself for V. It best reflects what I’ve learnt this month.
- Take your time. Reading the other interviews and analyses of worlds this month, the common theme is: the best worlds have taken years in development. The authors live in them, and have done for so long that they know how they work, at all levels. Just having your train timetables is not a guarantee that you know how they work politically, culturally, socially. And I wish I was patient enough to wait to get my books out until they have a smidgin of the richness that Tolkien’s do. Live in your world until you have it as real as the one you really do live in! Jemima Pett
I’d like to thank the authors of all the books I’ve mentioned this month, living and dead, and also everyone online who has unwittingly supplied an illustration or a cover. I hope I’ve credited most of the non-covers – the covers are nearly all from Goodreads.
And the winners are!
The winner of the special 1000th post draw was Rebecca Douglass.
The winner of the A2Z giveaway was J Lenni Dorner.