World building is absolutely one of my favorite topics because it is where writing starts for me.
I am one of those mad nutters who spends a year building the entire setting, and everything that might be in it, before starting on something as simple as ‘Chapter 1, Book 1’.
I know that’s not how it works for lots of writers, and that there is such a thing as too much detail, but I sit in the fun and awkward little corner of the writing world where I really like a degree of realism in my fantasy… but I also like my fantasy in my fantasy. World building solves the potential for disconnect for me in a pleasant and enjoyable way, letting me fully explore the implications and ramifications of what I have in mind before I put pen to proverbial paper and immediately run headlong into an unbelievable situation.
I usually prefer to get a couple of chapters deep before I screw that particular bit up.
I’ve been invested in world building for years. As a youth, I was definitely what one would call a Dungeons and Dragons nerd, though being an angsty teen (someone in my family had to be, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make) I preferred the settings of the unequaled (in my opinion) White Wolf.
At least… prior to the year 2000.
So. DnD, V:TM, M:TA etc etc etc… nice little acronyms for huge settings devised by much more experienced writers who even added dice rolls and rules to their imaginative worlds. Dungeons and Dragons was the sort of setting that kind of lent you to making your own, from scratch, unless you were playing a pre-written module.
The result was that I had the chance to stomp around the ideas of my friends as a gnome wielding a broadsword, accompanied by a bongo-playing mage.
When it came to White Wolf and their esteemed Vampire: The Masquerade, then it was stomping around a gritty and grim reflection of the real world instead, that was no less imaginative, but did not have a bongo-playing mage.
It wasn’t long before the internet and my group of friends had me moving into the position of acting as the ‘Story Teller’ in these games – the person running the story, and writing the list of events to happen in response to whatever the player characters were doing.
We never ran pre-made modules, I always came up with stories of my own, and it was just a short jump from doing that, to deciding I wanted to actually make the entire city these stories were happening in, rather than relying on the real world cities which sometimes cramped my creative ideas.
The best of these stories I finally went on to tell was based in a city I named Miridian, set in Virginia near the Maryland border, and dealing with a plot that linked multiple White Wolf releases together, specifically Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Demon: The Fallen. True, I was working within the large over-arching meta-plots of the amazing White Wolf team, but beyond the general concepts, the actual nitty-gritty of the story was my own… and my friends loved it.
A few years later, I even ran it again for another group of friends after tightening it up and smoothing over a few cracks, and it was successful all over again.
Thanks to all this, I had a very strong background in the concept of world-building, and at least some base experience in beginning to do that for myself. I’d also had enough of a taste to realize there is a lot more to creating a vibrant and fun setting than just making a note of place names and events while following a protagonist in whatever you happen to be writing.
I mean… who is running the city? Is there a police force here, and if so, why on earth aren’t they stopping the main character from breaking and entering city hall?
Speaking of which… who is emptying the dustbins in this city? Is there a pest problem? How do they get their water, if they are living on a plateau without any rivers around?
I get sidetracked with these questions easily.
When I set out to start creating Hevna, it was on the back with a personal crisis of confidence and faith in other people. I’d had a couple of crucial years what with moving to another continent, adjusting to my husbands choice in career and dealing with the never-fun issue of a friend who turned out to be anything but. Stressful, difficult, and I was definitely depressed for a while and floundering.
Writing helped me solve it. Making a whole new world eased the strain, kept me focused.
It was my first time creating a world entirely from scratch, top to bottom, and that challenge in and of itself helped me get over a lot of my stress, just as continuing to work on Hevna does for me, two years down the line.
I wish I had known on day 1, when I first named the world, just what a wonderful, positive and worthwhile change it was going to make in my life. I wish I could give the uncertain me that started the process a reassuring hug and pat on the back, not least of which because the most wonderful thing has happened to me within the last month regarding world building.
I’ve been complimented on it, by a complete stranger.
Honestly, there is nothing in the world that makes me happier than entertaining or pleasing other people. My family have been so supportive, loving and invested in what I’m doing, I should have enough joy stored up for the next fifteen years minimum. Despite this, it’s definitely another thing again when someone who has no obligation to like what you are doing agrees with your loved ones and enjoys your work. I love world building, and it seems I’m not too bad at it.
The next five blog posts I make will be looking at some individual areas of world building: Countries and maps, Religions, Flora and Fauna, Characters, and ‘Other‘, making this the first of my blog sections that will be part of a series.
I hope to explain how and why I did the things I did, at least as an interesting insight to my lovelies who check this blog regularly into my madness, and maybe one day as some form of inspiration to a wandering stranger who might read this and find some worth in my rambling!
See you Wednesday!