Tuesday, July 13, 2010


As you may know, I’m registered in a two-year novel course through Forward Motion for Writers. Each week an assignment is posted for us to work on, and at the end of two years, we will have completed a novel. We’ve had 26 assignments so far, 12 of those on world-building. I know most of you already know most everything there is to know about world-building, so I’m not going to attempt to teach you anything new. Instead, I’ll share with you what I’m currently working on in my course.
Over the next two weeks I’ll be on holidays at my cottage; a rustic, isolated lake where my family is usually the only people around. I have chosen it as the setting for my novel, currently called Slavelake.
Assignment Questions:
Education: What is the level of education in your character’s world? How are children educated? Who is allowed to be educated and who is allowed to teach it?

Education in Slavelake is an informal system based on teaching basic survival skills. This one-bedroom cottage houses the entire group where the eldest teach the youngest.
Knowledge Preservation: How is knowledge passed down in your society? Oral history, written word, computers? Who has access to the information?

Due to the complete isolation of Slavelake, and the lack of access to resources, knowledge is passed down by oral history. However, the leader of the group controls access to that information and carefully considers who he will allow to have it.
Medicine: What medical system exists in your world? Who practices it: apprentices, mothers, professionals? How do they learn to practice medicine and what value are they to your society?

The leader will appoint a medicine man in this society, again based on basic survival. There will be little or no access to medical supplies, so leaves, water and other natural resources will be their only option; sometimes ending in illness and tragedy.
Myths: Do your characters believe in myth, legend and lore? Are those legends going to prove to be true?

This is a fun one! This picture is of a location where many people have drowned. The history has inspired me to create a legend of a monster, but the details are still top secret squirrel!
Religion: What is the prevalent religion(s) in your world? Do conflicting beliefs create conflict between characters or societies?

Religion will be pagan beliefs around sun/wind/rain. Rituals will be performed to the elemental gods, and will appear rather primitive.
Beliefs: Do your people believe there are gods watching them, predestined? Or do they believe in free will? Do they interpret their environment to have supernatural forces?

The people will believe in supernatural forces and will be afraid of them. These supernatural forces will be closely tied to the environment, and the leader will have some influence over the environment, escalating him to the status of a demi-god.
I’m hoping my two weeks in this rustic setting will inspire some major creative energy, and help me get into the writing phase of this project.
Fellow writers, what inspires you in your world-building process? Do you use real places you have seen and experienced? Are they created in your imagination? Or do you use real locations you've never seen and research them?


Karyn Good said...

I hope the creative energy is flowing and you're full to the brim with ideas. Your lake looks like a fabulous place to stockpile creativity!

To this point I've based my fictional town on a combination of two real towns and a resort area. But for future projects I'm looking forward to creating everything from scratch. One idea includes a town called Mercy with the town square affectionately known as Hell's Gate, which will involve researching the appropriate location and doing some world-building.

Good luck with your course and Slavelake.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Joanne,
The course you're taking certainly sounds interesting and comprehensive. It appears to be preparing you well for the writing stage. Once you've considered all the aspects of your fictional society, you'll know how your characters will react, no matter what you throw at them.

My settings are usually in real places (a farm in Saskatchewan, Portland, Oregon, France in World War 2). Some settings, like the farm in Saskatchewan, I'm very familiar with, others (like France in WW2)I have to research. For that I use books, Google, and any first hand accounts I can get my hands on.

Loved the pictures of the lake. Good luck with your writing!

Helena said...

Interesting concepts you have going on in your "world."

I'm curious about the significance of the name (partly because I know of the town and lake in Alberta: Slave Lake). Will this basically be a highly structured authoritarian system of leader and slaves? I know this could be a benevolent society with a leader whose intent is to lead a society that will consider the well-being of all members, but what about the potential for corruption? Or am I reading something into this that is not intended? Incidentally, I am not rejecting this world out of hand, there are parts that really appeal to me, such as the religious beliefs and the oral traditions of learning.

Fascinating course. Good luck with it!

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hi Karyn,
I love the names you have chosen - especially Hell's Gate! I'll be looking forward to reading that one!

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hi Jana,
I have found first hand experience to be so useful. Just yesterday I returned to the high school I used in my current WIP, and I experienced it in a whole new way. I'll be able to flesh out the details now in a way I hadn't before, hopefully adding authenticity to the setting.

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hi Helena,
Without giving it all away, it will definitely have tons of corruption and very little concern for the members of the society. This novel is going to have a dark, horror feel to it and the romance will be quite secondary.

Slavelake? I don't know - it just came to me one day. My dad used to fly out to Slave Lake for his business; I guess the name always "felt" a little creepy to me, and when I was searching for a working title, it just popped into my head!

Janet said...

I love the title and the premise, Joanne - it promises to be a wonderfully, chilling story. And you've done your homework - hopefully by the time you get to writing, it literally writes itself. Looking forward to hearing more about it - and the course you're taking.

I waffle between contemporary and medieval. Sometimes the medieval is easier - you need to know your stuff, but you can 'world-build' much easier since there's not a lot of information out there.

Have a great holiday - and happy writing :)