A Whole New World (Kind Of…)

Image courtesy Disney Parks Blog

It’s been a pretty good and pretty productive week here at Marcum Manor. I’ve mad some significant progress on The Loneborn (I’m up over 7,000 words! Yippee!), I managed to not just get my schoolwork done but done early, AND we’ve got my son’s birthday weekend celebration planned and in place for next weekend! I’m still not feeling 100% (and to be honest I probably never will feel 100%, but it is what it is, you learn to deal with it) but I’d rather be pleased with my progress during the past week than wallow in what’s not going right. What a world it’d be if we ALL chose to live like that, eh?

Anyway, I think I’m going to have to allow a few plates to drop. I wanted to do a short story for an upcoming horror anthology and I really thought I could get it done. To be honest, though, at least honest with myself, I don’t think I’m gonna make it. First, the topic isn’t really in my horror wheelhouse – I haven’t ever written a werewolf story and hadn’t even thought of it before – and it’ll take a lot more time than I have to be able to come up with something that even works, much less write it. An outline for the story is due by the end of next week and it’s just not there. My attention is more on my fantasy world right now rather than horror.

Second, I wanted to try and meet a deadline for another horror anthology that I wanted to try and submit to. I only found it a week ago, and I plugged away on the story for it for a little bit this past week, and I really liked what I had down but (again) let’s be honest for a minute. Like I said above my focus isn’t in the horror world right now, it’s on fantasy, and I should really keep my focus there. I’m paying a lot of money for this MFA, and I should keep my concentration there and do the best I’m capable of. I feel like I owe it to myself to keep my eyes on the prize.

Which brings us to the focus of this week’s discussion – worldbuilding. How do YOU do it? Do you have a process? Do you come up with a character and build a world around them, or do you build a world and insert your character? Does the world come into existence and then you fit a plotline to the world, or do you build a plotline and build your world around it? Just how much detail, time, and effort do you commit to worldbuilding? How much is too much?

I have some distinctive thoughts on the subject because worldbuilding is what has hitched me up in my writing for the past fifteen years or so. I have a horrible habit of starting the task of worldbuilding and then falling down the rabbit hole that I’ve dug for myself. As an example, I had an idea for a story *cough* several *cough* years ago. It’s a modern fantasy, what some call “low fantasy” – a story that utilizes magic, etc., that takes place in the “real world.” This story’s plot, loosely speaking, revolves around New York City, a graveyard, a set of mystical keys, a nomadic society…you get the (vague) picture. I suppose you’re wondering what happened? Well, *I* happened. I got so caught up in researching cemeteries in and around NYC, nomadic societies and their folklore, faked deaths, abandoned subway tunnels, and…and…and… Yeah. The story didn’t get written. It didn’t even get started.

This is the perfect example of how worldbuilding can take over (and potentially ruin) a story for the writer. To me, one of the most important (and hardest) lessons to learn about worldbuilding is that it’s okay if the writer doesn’t know everything about the world before the story begins. Do you have some really great ideas for world quirks that you’d like to get down and perhaps cement and build upon some? That’s great! Write it down! Make some notes! Build on it! But, don’t get obsessive about it, and don’t make it your sole focus.

One of my favorite techniques to employ is the Story Bible technique. If I have an interesting idea that I think I might work into my story at some point, I jot it down in my story bible. The very act of writing it down helps me to remember the idea, and gets me thinking about where it might fit into the story. When the time comes for that idea to figure into the world, I recall, hey, I took some notes about that… and I can skim through my story bible and find it.

Worldbuilding can be challenging, invigorating, and a lot of fun, too! It can also be a weighty albatross around the neck of a writer, too. The trick is to find that balance and learn to maintain it as you progress through creating your narrative. That part of worldbuilding isn’t always easy and it isn’t always fun, but in the end it’ll give your story that certain something that you look for as a reader; you’ll end up with an immersive, realistic world that your readers can believe in, follow, and feel as they are a part of.

So…what are your thoughts about worldbuilding? Have you encountered pitfalls when creating your worlds? What do you enjoy most about creating your worlds, and what parts do you dread the most?

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday, and a fantastic week to come!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s