Who among us hasn’t wished they could be Supreme Overlord of the World, even if just for a moment? I know I have. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, ‘Man, if I were in charge and my edicts were binding upon the whole world I could fix this, and this, and that over there…’
Well, when you’re a writer you can do that. And no genre is as completely moldable to the author’s imagination than than the science fiction/fantasy genre. In sci-fi/fantasy, literally if you can dream it, you can write it. Of course, with that much power comes… say it with me… great responsibility. Dreaming an entire world into existence is a monumental undertaking in and of itself, but making that world breathe is another thing entirely.
When I started this blog, the purpose was two-fold and throughout all the changes I’ve made on this site, that’s one thing that has never changed. Sure, I’m plugging my work for those who are interested in my writing and I’ll admit to being a greedy attention-seeker. *lol* But I also want to provide a ‘behind the curtain’ look at the struggles of a new writer. Those of you who’ve known me from the start have been on quite a ride with me and I appreciate it. I’d like to think that my writing has improved and matured throughout these changes and I’m looking forward to discovering what the final product will look like just as much as all of you are.
And so, I’m writing the draft of these No Redemption for the Wicked novels and I’m loving it; but sometimes I just have to stop and do some world-building. What happens is I just need a more concrete understanding of what my world looks like: Who lives in it? What kind of people are they? What kind of power do they have over themselves and over others? What are their names? What are their relationships to each other? Who are their natural allies and adversaries? Who are their unexpected allies and adversaries?
These questions must be asked and answered because, just like in any other novel, your story is going to be driven by people, and that means your characters. And what makes your characters come alive on the page is not just how well you define their character and develop their growth throughout the novel, but each character needs to have a believable context. The traits and characteristics you give to each character need to seem as if they logically flow from the experiences you dream up for that character before they are introduced to the story, in other words, their backstory.
So, now that my draft is starting to develop and I’ve realized that I need to shift around to different places in my setting to continue, I’ve found myself suddenly in need of clearly-defined places and people. And so, that’s what had me up at all hours last night dreaming up the names of the various noble estates that populate the primary setting for the story, which is the Kingdom of Arcadia. Kingdoms need dukes, counts and earls, viscounts, barons and lords. Most of them will never see the page, but I still need to know who they are, enough to know whether they figure into the story or not. I need to know, or instance, that Baron Cluckfinster won’t be in the story because he his baronial seat is in Lamona Roost, which is nowhere near any of the action and besides, the Cluckfinsters have no family or even incidental relations with anyone in the story.
Now, that doesn’t mean I need a detailed background for every single one. That would be a waste of time. For most purposes, once I determine that some character or place is not going to figure in the story at all, I’m generally going to be safe in stopping at that point and moving on. But added just a little bit of unnecessary detail (as long as it doesn’t consume too much of my time and focus) will be a good thing as it will just give me that much more of a clear picture in my mind when I write and that increased level of clarity will come across on the page and make the writing better. You just have to keep it to just a little bit of added detail because the benefit you get per minute you spend adding that detail diminishes rapidly the longer you spend at it. The trick is to do just a little bit more than you need and no more than that.
So, here’s to the joys of world-building and making your literary world come alive with people and places that breathe!