Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World-Building: A Working Example and Open Floor

I'll be back home and online reliably again next week!

While I've been gone, my plan for these four weeks has been to focus on world-building. I build a lot along the way (as I've advised before), and research on the fly for little details now and then, but there are some large-scale issues I knew would need more work, except I didn't want to halt my progress and overwhelm myself with extensive research.

So, without the time to truly sit and write, and potential research everywhere I go, I've devoted my work time on this trip to those world-building issues. Yes, I'm working on a month-long vacation. That's what comes of loving the job ... and what else am I going to do on an international flight?

I'm looking at trade between kingdoms, and the sort of commodities they want and have. At social structures I haven't needed to touch yet, such as the aristocracy, who have almost no presence in such a low-class-oriented story, but eventually need to be figured out. I'm also figuring out management on smaller scales, and ways I can break away from the default mindset of the Medieval feudal system that seems to come baked right in to so much fantasy.

I'm also looking at laying down detailed maps now that I know where my locations need to lie in relation to one-another. Geography and trade need to evolve hand in hand, each working off the other to suit my needs, so I need to figure out routes, ideal locations, obstacles, connections. This is where world-building and research diverge. I can reference historical trade structures, and rivers, coastlines, or overland passes that encouraged it, but I'm not bound by anything yet.

This story's central city, for example, has a reputation as a great trade hub, but right now I don't think its geography really allows for that, so I'll likely re-route a river or two to speed up travel (people, like water, tend toward the path of least resistance). Likewise I'm working with a coastal-bordered kingdom, and I want both a naval presence and an element of sea trade. That means looking at my coastline. A coastline such as west coast North America only offers so much contact with others, and a great deal of overland travel to reach elsewhere (also a problem with those pesky Rockies in the way). A Mediterranean coastline, however, may open things up a lot more, and mainland-island system similar to South-East Asia brings in a completely different dynamic once again. Plenty to think about, and so many prospects I can tailor to suit the work! This is why I love world-building.

For this week's post, I thought I'd try a change of pace. We've looked at world-building as it pertains to all genres, the basics of seeding information to avoid overload, and taken our first steps into building world-scale elements from the ground up. Now I'm turning it over to you. What do you want more detail about? What sort of world-building do you have in your WIPs that could use a little more work? Any story ideas percolating that you haven't put to paper because the scale of work developing settings or characters is simply too daunting? Want to know more about world-building in realistic settings, or would you rather delve deeper into secondary worlds?

Share your questions, thoughts, concerns, and when I return, I'll direct my upcoming entries in the series toward those direction!


Joanne Brothwell said...

I'm working on a world-building post right now too, Hayley. I don't think I really appreciated this topic until I began the Forward Motion for Writers two year novel course. We've spent 12 weeks on world-building, covering the topics you just mentioned. It has really gotten me thinking.

Right now I keep things pretty simple. I can't seem to keep a lot of details in my head and I know I'd lose track of things, so I stick to the basics.

Thanks for your post, Haley. Thought-provoking as usual.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Hayley,
One of our guest bloggers from 2009, my friend Ishbel Moore, talked about how maps helped her build her world in her fantasy romance novel "Blood Tapestry". She actually constructed a map, using a rough outline of a map of Africa. Then she placed her countries, her major cities, rivers, castles, etc. on the map as she wrote. It helped with the plotting and gave her a visual representation of her world.

I write contemporary novels as well as some historical novels set in World War 2, so my worlds have to be real. I want the history to be as accurate as I can make it, but I'm wondering how much artistic license I can take with real events? I wouldn't change any major historical event, but is it possible to change small details in the characters' lives to provide a more dramatic effect?


Nicole Murray said...

I love this subject and look forward to reading more about it.

BTW, I have a thank you for the Prairie Chicks on my blog. ;-D

Julie Musil said...

What an informative post! When I read a book, I like to know the surroundings and how it affects the characters. When I write, I drip that information in too. In the first draft, there's always too much of it. I weed it out later.

melissa said...

Just wanted to say how much I liked your blog. I'm a new author and i'm in the process of writing my first book. It's been a journey. I am now a follower here and will be back for updates.

Karyn Good said...

I think I need a private session, Hayley! But I do have a question and I hope it make sense and isn't too weird.

How to create a different reality tethered to present time? Kind of like Gotham? I keep envisioning this contempary romantic suspense trilogy in which the gulf between the rich and the poor has widened to the point of incredible extremes with the villian being more a corporation type mentality than one person. I don't want it to have a sci-fi feel to it. The idea is so huge I keep shoving it away, but it keeps coming back! Anyhoo, that's my question? Which you are at liberty to ignore if it makes no sense.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Excellent advice, Hayley. I like that you're including such details. Because I'm a coin collector, I relate to stories that mention the monetary system of the time whether it's card money or coins.

I'm not that much into fashion, but I do like knowing what the main characters are wearing and how it helps or impedes their progress.

As a writer of the Old West, I have to envision places as they were 150 yrs ago. This includes the actual buildings and streets in towns. It also includes the vegetation and wildlife of the time.

I find that maps are a necessity in whatever I write.

Have a safe trip home. :)