Q&A: Writing (World-Building)
Overall, this is the sort of topic that’s appropriate for what’s coming our way in the near future. We won’t dig too deep but rather answer a basic question around the edges. World-building is most especially a concern — sometimes a misleading obsession — for writers in the premise genres of SF, Science Fantasy, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy and Horror. The trick is how much you do and keeping in mind that it’s all about the story-making, not the world-building. If the latter takes over the focus from the former, then you’ve wander astray.
As to why this topic is so appropriate, we’ll be doing a brief seminar on world-building (as well as workshopping manuscripts from a small group of writers) at the upcoming 2012 Cascade Writers Workshop. More on that coming soon. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
What kind of research did you have to do to start the saga or start any one particular book? *
We did have to conceive the social, political, and cultural differences seen in the regions, nations, and peoples. For example, there is more formalized religion on the central continent of Series 2, while in Series 1 there are rampant superstitions and rural folklore embedded in localized belief systems. Then of course there were smaller more localized settings to deal with.
In S2B1: In Shade and Shadow, Barb did research into castle types and layouts from a historical basis of how they might and did change over time. In turn, J.C. melded her selections for a base, and then changed it according to what would have happened over four centuries plus after a nearly complete decimation of civilization a thousand years back. That became the floor plan for the “first” castle of Calm Seatt, meaning that over time a basic square keep would never be enough for a royal city. It thereby became the founding branch for the Guild of Sagecraft, for it wouldn’t simply be torn down but put to good use, where possible. Our publisher included the layout J.C. designed at the beginning of the novel. It appeared again in one later book… with some tiny corrections and additions most readers didn’t notice.
We often do a good deal of research regarding mythology and folklore; Barb will look into the forward motion of how those came to create what we see in pop culture, while J.C. may go further back in time in related arcane studies. There is also how culture and civilized zones would interact with, and adapt to, the immediate climate and geography, or biomes if you prefer. The pertinent point here is that we did what was necessary to get started with “story-making,” and we develop further finite details from book to book as necessary. And everything is integrated carefully into the rough whole-world view that we started with. And that’s the real trick…
A professional writer does not sit down and build up everything that might be needed and then some. If s/he did, s/he wouldn’t get any writing done. You only deal in the specifics when necessary and stick with broad brush strokes to cover all that might come up and be loosely connected to focal settings. And of course you must work it all together with reasonable verisimilitude. This way, you get the story made (instead of every corner of the world) and get to the telling of it.
- * Based on material from interviews in Time Warner, 2005, and SCI-FI, 2000.