Carol Louise Wilde is a dear friend of mine whose first book, Gift of Chance, was just recently released. It’s an awesome book, by the way. But one of the things that make this book really rock is the fantasy world that she has created in it. So that’s what I asked her to write about.
World Building Nuts and Bolts
I’ve been asked to write about world-building, a prominent feature of Gift of Chance, the first book in my fantasy series The Nagaro Chronicle. Since the world I’ve used in the Chronicle has been “alive” in my head for decades, I’m frankly at a bit of a loss to describe its origins. However, the experience of writing Gift of Chance, as well as working on another project that I’ve recently started to write, have given me a couple of ideas of a how-to nature on the subject, which I can offer here.
I’ve come to realize that while the “bones” of the Chronicle’s world – the core structural elements – are very old, much of the “flesh” on those bones is more recent. These are the finer details, the visible trappings of the world’s everyday reality, and many of them only came to me after I actually started writing the story and began to put myself into the day-to-day life of my characters. So this is one key to successful world-building, as I see it: the need to put yourself into your world and imagine it from the inside, out, not just from the outside, in. Your characters are living in your world. What is that like, moment by moment?
The experience, as you describe it, needs to be organic and believable, which requires detail. And here is another key regarding those details: It’s important to imagine both what is the same and what is different in your world compared to ours. The differences, of course, are what make your world unique, but the things that are the same are what allow your readers to relate to your imagined world, to its characters, and the events of the story that you’re telling. These details help to make your world real for the reader, in spite of its strangeness.
You need to consider every detail you write, because any detail at all might be either the same or different. The basics of making bread – in terms of yeast and kneading and rising and so forth – might be the same, but ovens can differ considerably. And if the bread isn’t ordinary bread – or it’s baked by dragon fire – what would be the same, and what would be different in the process? Or perhaps your character works in a factory that makes androids. What would be unique about working in such a factory, and what would be similar to working in a factory that made cars or microwave ovens? On a broader level, human emotions may be a constant, but the social structures and interactions that elicit those emotions could be so different as to require a whole new perspective. And what if one or more of your characters isn’t human? What might then be the same, and what might be different?
Of course, although I’m suggesting that you put yourself into your world as you write, I’m not saying you should use all the details you might imagine as you immerse yourself in each scene. Be selective. Don’t overload your readers. Just make sure that the details you choose to include serve a useful function. I’m suggesting that besides the obvious functions of setting the scene or advancing the action, you should also consider the world-building functions of your details: either helping to further define the uniqueness of your imagined world, or making it more real by giving your readers things they can relate to, based on their own experience.
And that, for what it’s worth, is my “take” on the nuts and bolts of world-building.
Gift of Chance is available through Amazon.com.