Something that can be forgotten when writing a story is world building. What I mean when I say forgotten is that it can be more of an afterthought, the writer so focused on the characters and what they are doing that they forget that the world itself plays an important part.
An excellent example of this is Harry Potter. All you have to do is say the word Hogwarts and people immediately get an idea of what you are talking about, a school for magic. Some of that is because of the movies, but even if you had only read the books, Rowling did such a fantastic job of world building that you can imagine being there. The same goes for Stephenie Meyer and her Twilight series. You can almost feel the constant rain at Forks, the heat when the characters go to Phoenix as you read it. Another book that has the same impact with out having being turned into a movie is Juliet Marillier’s Wolfskin. Within moments of reading you are transported to Viking era Britain. With all these books, the world created plays an important part in the telling of the story.
Why is this? Because the worlds these authors have created have rules, ones that their characters need to follow and if they don’t there are consequences. This in turn helps to drive the plot forward. In the Twilight series it is important that Edward does not step out into the sun. It is a rule in that world that his skin will sparkle in bright daylight and there are consequences if he steps into it (the Volturi). It is something that is fact and the plot is driven forward when he attempts to step into the sun, Bella stops him and the Volturi demand that she becomes one of them. This ends up becoming one of the major driving forces in the series. And it all happened because of Edward’s skin and the way it interacts with sunlight.
So how do you make this work for you? Well, here is what I do.
- Know the climate of your world and how it affects your characters.
- Physics. The Law of Gravity will affect your character just like it does us. If it doesn’t, have a plausible reason why.
- Government. Who/what/how is your world governed?
- Magic system. If you have this as an element of your story, take the time to sit down and figure out how it works. In A Balance of Secrets, the magic system I’ve created is based on energy and colour. Certain colours have an affinity for certain energies and can manipulate them. That’s the short version anyway.
- Paranormal. If you’re going down this route, do your research. You can break the rules like Meyer did in Twilight, but know them first and make it plausible. People know about vampires, ghosts etc. and have certain expectations you need to be aware of.
- Society/culture. Is it based on money, religion, trade, something else? How do they buy things? What are the typical jobs there? Is there a particular deity everyone worships? Is there a large gap between the poor/rich, nobles/commoners etc.?
- Education. Is it freely available? Is it even a thing like we know it or is it more a father teaching son type of education?
This list is by no means exhaustive and you truly can go very in depth if you want. But like anything, there is a time to stop planning and simply do. Create your characters’ world, make it believable, but don’t forget to write the story.
Have a happy and creative week everyone and let me know what you think in the comments.