Work in Progress: World Building

I don’t think I’m going to get any writing prompts out this week, so I thought I would post a brief update on what has been keeping me busy.

I finished the draft of my science-fiction book and am setting it aside for a few weeks to allow myself a fresh perspective before editing. In the meantime, I am diving back into my fantasy draft. After reading through it, I realized the story world needs more development before it’s ready for what is turning into a multi-book series (Oops).

Below I will outline each of the elements I’m working on and how they impact the story.

MAP: The first thing I did when I started was to draw a map. My characters travel a lot, so I wanted to develop a better understanding of the terrain and geography. As the series continues, the rest of the land becomes important, so I placed and named all the major holds. The next step will be creating profiles for each of them (leadership, major imports/exports, attitudes of the citizens, terrain, history, etc) and developing the characters from each hold that will play a part in the story.

LORE: As I’ve been writing, I’ve also been developing lore ranging from the overall story of the land, including the creation ‘myth’ (though it’s not a myth), to the history of the country for the five hundred years before the story within the books begins. Both are tied to the plot, so I want to make sure they are developed before I move forward.

SOCIETY: Developing recent history as well as some societal structures informs the way people will act. There are two races within my world and while their cultures intertwine, they are still unique in the way they organize themselves. Understanding these hierarchies and where my characters fit into them, informs how they act and are perceived. Each race has its own abilities that directly impact their culture and how they interact with each other as well as how they interact with the other race.

BACK STORIES: Each of my main character’s backstory becomes pivotal to the plot. I feel comfortable with their personalities and where their storylines enter and intertwine since I’ve already spent a lot of time with them. However, while working through these details and the ending of my draft, I realized my villains are currently flat and undeveloped characters. I tried to write some dialogue with one of them and I had no clue what he would say, so that will be my project over the rest of the week: making my antagonists dimensional people with clear motivations. Being evil for the sake of being evil doesn’t work.

LANGUAGE: The ancient language of one of the races plays a huge part in the plot as well as influences the way characters speak. While no longer commonly spoken, it permeates the colloquial language of the entire world. The runes I created were also used to name several of the holds which were founded thousands of years ago when the language was spoken. While this is in no way a functional language (I’m not Tolkien), I am creating enough to color the story.

OUTLINING: My draft was…a bit of a mess, so I went through and outlined what was happening. Doing this helped me realize I had no idea what the impetus was in the middle of the book. While character development was occurring, the plot was dragging along if it was there at all. Once I realized that, I was able to take a step back and pay more attention to what was happening in the world as a whole. This gave the characters something to react to, opened up the world, and increased tension. Stakes are important.

While time-consuming, this work is going to create a strong foundation for my story and ensure that all the books in the series are congruent. I would hate to get three books in and realize I left out a major, plot-destroying element. I also love doing it. My creation myth is one of my favorite things that I’ve written. For anyone curious, here is the working blurb for my current draft.

For as long as she can remember, she has lived within the dark monotonous safety of the tower. Challenged by unsettling dreams and the arrival of a mysterious prisoner, she begins to wonder about the unreachable outside world and even herself as she realizes she has no idea who she is, why she’s there, or the purpose of the silver collar around her neck.

More soon!

~ R. E. Rule

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