Hello, and welcome to this edition of Everything Sci-Fi.
World Building - Part 2
Last time, I discussed a little bit on what world building is, and what it takes to build a successful world for your readers. World building takes planning and planning takes time. Don’t rush it; your world will suffer if you do. Whether you use top down or bottom up, or a mix of both, there has to be planning. This time I’m getting into the nitty-gritty of world-building.
The first step in every good world build is to decide if you’re world is a completely new world, or if you’re making changes to current contemporary settings, and if so, what those changes are.
Once you decide, the next step is to sit down and brainstorm. This will include things from their history, objects they use, or the different societies. Brainstorming is when you come up with any and all ideas for something. The trick to brainstorming is to understand that there are no bad ideas during a session. Once you complete the brainstorming session, sit down and weed out the cool ideas from the awesome ideas. It’s those awesome ideas that flowed out of you during this creation phase of world-building that you will want to focus on. Don’t toss out your cool ideas; you may need those later during the writing phase. You might jump up and say, hey, I needed that thing right here. Then you can go back to your notes later on, and extract it, putting it to good use.
That’s a little bit on bottom up planning, but it’s also top down, you just didn’t know it yet.
When your brainstorming session is done and you have taken everything you need from this, the next step is to do more research on things that make these alterations realistic to the reader. Now you have the clay, start to mold it into shape.
Once you have the clay-figure of an idea, the next thing that should be done is put them through a test. Ask yourself, does this make sense in your created world? Do these make sense to your reader? That’s when you find a good friend, and bounce it off of them. Ask them for their opinion, and just maybe, they’ll tell you something that you wouldn’t have thought of. Something that works so well, that you’ll wonder how you managed for so long without that clever idea?
Now that you have the very basics of your world building, now’s the time to start writing your narrative around your world. Just keep in mind that your world is where your characters play. The world must control your characters and those around them in a way that makes your new world believable.
Don’t write an entire diatribe on your world that would bore even the most nerdish reader. This is one of the worst things you can do in world building. Try to incorporate parts of your world in the characters dialogue. Use descriptors throughout to show them things. Sure, you’ll have to explain certain things and give details, but find ways to reveal that throughout your story, and not all at once. Unless the detail has to be told in order for the reader to understand what’s going on, it’s always best for the reader to discover those things as you go. Find ways to incorporate the emotions and our five senses. Using sensory descriptions, brings your world to life, and makes it come to life for the reader.
Before I go, I should give a few “no no’s” in world building. This has to do with names, rules, and the past.
You’ve just created an exotic world full of new and interesting things. Don’t gum it up with exotic names that anyone but you know how to pronounce. It’s so hard to resist doing this. Please don’t do it. I did it, and as a result, my first books suffered. Now I have to go through and re-edit five books in my series to tone those names down. I used the name Jhahnahkan as my main hero. Wow, that sounds pretty exotic, but unless I give you the phonetic spelling, you’ll never get it. Changing Jhahnahkan into Jhan works better, or even just call him John.
Rules are important in any society. Be consistent in your rules. If someone breaks a rule in the first half of the book, then everyone must be subject to this rule throughout.
Make sure you have a past. Your current culture came from somewhere. It didn’t just pop up out of nowhere...wait...yes it did, through world-building. Remember, you want your reader to be pulled into your world and to do that, you have to explain the past. History influences the world around your characters. It’s the past that causes them to react to certain situations that they might not have reacted to, if that particular thing in history hadn’t altered their beliefs.
World building can be a very complex thing to do. If you incorporate these steps, you’ll be well on your way to making your world a believable place where your characters can play.
Well, that’s it for this edition. I hope you enjoyed my column today, and we’ll see you next time on “Everything Sci-Fi”.
From the author's chair,
Brian K. Larson