Recently I’ve gotten my backside back into writing my goddamned novel. Specifically – yeah, you know what it is by now – The Courthouse Arc, of which some of you may be pleased to know that the full complement of the prologue and chapter one.
That’s right: prologue and chapter one, fully edited and fully posted for your enjoyment.
Now streamlining the story to fit in its own universe has been a bit of hard work but like any other bit of world building it was a joy to create. The goal of altering it to fit into my own universe was different here than it was when I’ve gone into world building in other areas; when I’ve built worlds before I worked from what was wanted and wrote out the structure of either entire worlds and/or certain aspects of them in order to create background for readers. In the instance of The Courthouse Arc I had to build a world around a story that I’d already written. Before this massive edit occurred I didn’t have to think about how things would affect a story that I’d already written and developed a few distinct items and idioms for.
What this massive edit taught me was that when you have an existing bunch of characters, a laid out environment (no matter how big), the existing technology etc. you can craft a universe around what you’ve already created or you can create something completely new with the full intention of a complete overhaul.
The choice that I made was simple: I would work my universe around what I’ve already written, editing a few things here and there to conform to new ideas, and still maintaining the original story as much as possible.
That was it though, it was what I’d already written. What about the stuff that I had planned, the stuff that I hadn’t written yet? That was simple. Plans can be changed, although I did keep a few of my original plot ideas new things were cropping up. Where I want the story to go, the aesthetics that will appear, new characters and entire histories were now unfurling before me. They once even made me jump out of my seat, scare a passerby outside of a cafe, and grab the notepad in my bag.
The best thing about being the one who creates and the only one who knows everything about your thing is that the audience (cunning DMs will know what I’m talking about) has no real idea what was to be, where your [particular] mistakes are, and you potentially get people on Tumblr making posts about your stuff that proclaims your character development to be genius (when it probably isn’t). 😛
Just talking about making fandom material for Tumblr a little bit and it all gets a little overwhelming. I’m not even kidding. There are some amazing fanarts of stuff out there.
Returning to world building though, it seems to have creeped into blog a little bit these past few months and I’m starting to think that I could make a small obsession about it. I could certainly sit down and create a few worlds just to pass a few hours, and I’m particularly convinced of it since I seem to be quite fond of just garnering epiphanies about it in the silliest of places.
One of the things which I enjoy the most about world building is creating stuff that not only is what characters live in every day but also what they don’t see, whether they choose to do so or not.
If you’re writing in first person it’d be difficult, but anything beyond a tight third person view would free your narrative to wander away from what characters see. If you are writing in first person then most of what the reader sees is filtered through their perception of things.
The problem here would be that you are more or less restricted to the character and what they see. If you veer away from them then you risk boring the reader. Having said that it’s still entirely possible for it to happen, although you should be aware of the things that can colour the things that your character sees: ideology (the character’s beliefs will impact their viewing), ignorance (they might actually just not know about something, like the riots in Highgate, or the homeless problem in Nar’var’kar Hive), inconvenient truths (they might just choose to ignore painful things for some reason), and the character’s privilege (those with money will have a different view than those who don’t).
Great world building is letting the reader see what it is that your characters take for granted. Just because they’re used to the familiar sights that would otherwise amaze us as readers doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get to know about it. Even if they’re little references dotted here and there (which I adore doing). It’s like sprinkling some seasoning on your potatoes or something; just putting in a little detail here can make the difference between a mundane world and a fantastical setting for all your little creations to roam about and live their happy/sad little lives in.