I am in the midst of “creative juicing” — my mind is racing with ideas and running over story elements for the world I am building for my new book. My father likes to call them creative writing phases, but to me it is more than just a happenstance. I have to work hard at finding inspiration; keeping my brain sharp on the lookout for ideas or pieces that will fit nicely into my stories. Until something seems to “click”, I keep running everything out in my head looking for a new factor to add, change or flesh out. Evolving the story before I even touch the keyboard!
A great blog to check out is www.aliventures.com — I have subscribed to Ali Luke’s newsletter recently and one bonus to doing that is that I was able to get her free e-book, The Two-Year Novel. In it she details how if you carefully plot it out, you can have a rough draft written, edited, proofread, beta read and then published within a two-year period! Inside that she also has many other beneficial resources and blog posts to help. Highly recommend it!
So, the reason I am bringing this up is that I am starting her timeline project at the same time that I am working diligently on getting my first novel out this September. I am currently in the world building and research stages upon her timeline.
This go-around I want my novel writing to be a lot better structured. Not only with faster and better quality of writing, but I want to have more of an idea of the world my characters are roaming around in and the lands that surround them. With the more you know of their world the more authentic your story will come across and keep the reader immersed in it.
After I wrote my first draft of Consequences Within Chaos, I realized that I left a lot of normal world elements out: like calendar dates, holidays, and time measurements (also I didn’t want to use normal modern terms a.k.a inches, miles, etc). Before I started my first real edit, I researched to find out what ways people might tell time in pre-modern times. What sources of “clocks” were there besides sun dials. What were the terms they used to measure.
These are just a few minute details I find you need to really help the reader feel the world you are constructing is full and rich. Especially in fantasy stories you are going to have to think and ask yourself, “What do they call the night or morning? Would they have a different term for midnight? Would they use the word ‘breakfast’?” And what if you are working on a world that isn’t even human?
Dialogue and careful use of terminology is important too. I find myself sometimes really getting annoyed and jarred out of the story being told in a movie when someone uses a present day slang term or idiom. This seems pretty common in futuristic films. Wouldn’t you role your eyes if Han Solo said “Whatevs!” to Luke Skywalker? In other words, would they really still use “All the bases are loaded” in a time period two thousand years from now? Or “like ridin’ a horse” when they are climbing into a spaceship!
I get why they do this: they need the audience to relate to the hero or get his joke. Is this just poor or lazy writing or is there no way around that particular writing trap? I am not absolutely sure. Yet, I am positive if you include a phrase like “an idea formed in his head like turning on a light bulb” in a fantasy novel, you would never hear the end of it!
By doing the world building first and comprehensively developing it, I can then incorporate those aspects and details naturally rather than going back and plugging them in.
A lot of professional writers also spend huge amounts of time writing about their main characters and every little historical fact or story they can think of. Some will even have fake dialogs between characters to learn more of each personality. Or they delve into all the background elements they can think of so that they truly know the character before they write the story of that person. Much of this will never see publication or be brought into the story for the readers. Yet all of this is to bring essential immersion into that world.
I personally love working up backgrounds for characters or thinking of unique world elements, but not every writer does. My advice though is to really make time for this. To me the GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) Rule applies here. The more work you invest and the more you really know your world and its heroes, the more your reader will love and cherish your stories. You just cannot skimp on or cut corners when it comes to world building!
How do you develop your worlds? What do you do to bring your heroes to life? Please leave a comment if you have suggestions on what is important to your world building.