14 January 2008

Playing God or Goddess

One of the first novels I wrote was the first book in a four part fantasy series I called The Prophet's Saga. When I say I know that world down to the minutia, I'm not lying to you. I could probably step into that book and get a job, I know it so well. I have a framed map of the country/continent where the books take place, which hangs in my office. I know the customs, religion, government and their rules of succession. I also begin each chapter with a quote from one of their sacred texts, or excerpts from one character to another. I love the world I created and only lament a publisher didn't love it as much. But I digress.

I spent the first draft of that first book engaged in trying to iron out exactly how the world fit together, putting it together a little bit as the story progressed. (And this first draft was all long hand!) But by the end of that draft, I knew my world inside and out.

Which brings me to my topic...

Do you like to world build?

For me, whether the story takes place in a futuristic America or on the heated plains of a duel-sun planet, world building is one of my most favorite activities to do while getting ready to write a book. Learning what motivates a culture or what their key inport/export is to me is totally fascinating. Birthing entire civilizations and seeing how they react is really a bit of a god (goddess) complex.

Some of my ideas for cultures are based on the known history of the Western world. Others take a more Eastern philosophy, and still others are purely from imagination...maybe even scattered remains of something I read in an archeological or scietific text. Whatever the basis for the world, I always try to put that one binding kernal in it to make it easily recognizable for the reader and not so far out of their experience they get lost in the explanation. After all, the goal is to submerge them in my world, not drown them in a sea of complicated explanations that will bore them to tears.

I've also been known to take myths and folklore and base a world on the story. Let the idea germinate until it fully blooms into something I can exploit. I have one story that pits two opposing forces against each other in a very bloody war with a clannish culture (similiar to historical Scotland) whose lands separate the two enemies. I got a lot of milage out of political intrigue by situating a country with it's own separate government right between the two warring parties.

So, how do you build your worlds? Do you start from the ground up? Do you start with your characters? Can you see the world completely, or does it come to you a little bit at a time as you write?

-Kat
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