When I write, I’m creating worlds for my characters to live and grow in. A place where they live, learn, love, and die, perhaps. Even if the story is set in a city or neighborhood I lived in, I add my own twist to it, marking it as my creation.
For modern settings, I learn what I can about an area by using the internet. Everything you need to know about a city, town, or village can be found here. This includes maps, so you can accurately describe a chase scene, and the types of buildings found in the area. There are house plans you can study to make a home for your character or an office building owned by a power hungry group of criminals. Maybe your main character owns a used bookstore or has a favorite restaurant they frequent. Find what you need on the internet, make a few changes and it now fits your story. My current work in progress is set in the neighborhood I lived in for 48 years. I knew the city like the back of my hand, seeing the changes that occurred over the years. Another part of the story takes place in two areas I’ve never visited, so I turned to the internet to learn what I needed, printing out maps of the areas, checking business directories to discover what stores and hotels are in the area.
Maybe your story is set in a different country. Once again, the internet is your best friend for researching the area. The library can help as well, with travel guides for the country. Heck, if you need basic information, go to the children’s section of the library for the books you need.
If you set your story in a historical period of time, hit the library, study atlases of world history so you have a good idea of how countries were divided back then. Read history books for that time period. Learn about the rulers and the powers behind those rulers. Another thing to keep in mind is religious beliefs, since religion played an important part in people’s lives and the political landscape. If this is your first foray into writing historical fiction, read historical novels to see how the author did it.
Another aspect of creating worlds concerns fantasy worlds. I’m talking about places like Middle Earth, Midkemia, or Faerun. Creating a fantasy world can be fun or a pain in the ass, depending on how you go about it. For my fantasy trilogy, I started with a village, making maps to help keep me on track. From the village I expanded to a regional map, then a continent map and finally the world map. Since most of what takes place occurs in the regional map, I did extensive write ups for the cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. This includes information on the rulers, their backgrounds and how they might connect to my main character. I even created a new race called Wulfin and a new creature called Kelar Wolves. Most of the information about the new race and the creature didn’t appear in my writing, but the information is always in the back of my mind when writing about them. I wrote up a pantheon for this world, including how the gods and goddesses relate to each other and to their followers. Dealing with non-human races in a fantasy world is a lot of fun, but be sure you make the races with noticeable differences from humans. Not just their appearance, but how they act with other races and with each other.
When you create a place for your main character to exist, don’t go overboard with detailed descriptions of places or people. Too much detail will bore the reader and could lead to bad reviews. Something writers never want to receive. At Writers World, Randall Andrews has a saying: Brevity is beautiful. Include details when it advances the plot, not to pad your word count.
May the words ever flow!