A deep grumble echoes across the metal and bone cluttered expanse stretching towards the Great Wall and back beyond The Wasteland. The sky above us is grey. Dead. Perhaps, at one time, the choking smog had been nothing more than dark clouds threatening rain. The roar, a warning of the impending thunder. Beyond it, an azure sky where the dormant sun waits to illuminate the world below. Perhaps. The dark silhouette painting an elliptical shadow over the denizens is not a cloud, though it rumbles with a threatening charge. The floating city, ironically named Utopia, belches more tainted pollution into the grimy sky. High-rise buildings atop the metallic furnace stretch towards the sky, scraping the impenetrable heavens – adding to the smog that keeps the sun perpetually at bay.
How long will it continue to defy God’s laws? How long will it keep itself separate? Father watches it pass, grim, soot stained resentment etched into his drooping jowl. We shakes his head once. We journey on.
A story crafted from an image. An image that existed, perhaps inspired, in the mind of an artist. An artist with a world outside of our own who then brought it to life. As writers, we not only create these worlds, parallel to our own or not, but we also craft stories from them. Our characters live in them, plots unwind across their landscape and readers separate fact from fiction long enough to live in them. Whether it’s visiting Diagon Alley for the first time or traversing Middle Earth, perhaps even shopping at a famous boutique in New York, the worlds become real. This is the beauty of world building.
World Building is Overwhelming
Imagine you had to create Earth from scratch. If that thought isn’t daunting enough, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of building Earth.
The Earth is round. It spins continuously, while also rotating around the Sun. It has a moon. All of these factors affect the Earth massively. They define time-zones, weather, sea levels, adaptation of people and animals, etc. This means you’ll have frozen tundras, scorching desertscapes, teeming forests, unrepressed grasslands, combinations of these… and this is just on land.
Not overwhelmed yet? Okay let’s zoom in further. You have animals adapting to their environment. Can you imagine trying to create all the animals, considering their make, shape, their place on the food chain, and their adaptations (if any) according to their environments. Both for land and sea and sky.
No? Okay how about the most complicated of all creatures: people. If you had to create every continent, country, province, city, and suburb, then define each one of their religions, cultures, beliefs, development, living conditions, style of dress, education, family dynamics and how they live in their respective environments (desert people compared to mountain people to city people), you’d go bonkers.
And we’ve only skimmed the surface of the intricacies of the world. We haven’t even considered the progress of humanity through ages up the point where you are reading this blog post on an electrical device connected to an invisible entity known as “The Internet”.
The image I used above to write that short little piece takes everything we know and alters it to create an alternate Earth with different technology, different history, and a whole other set of alternatives that change everything we know right now.
Junk Yard Angel World Building
Thankfully we don’t have to recreate a new Earth for every story we write. Can you imagine? No one would want to be a writer! However, for those rare moments when it is necessary, world building can nudge the creative juices in the right direction between the bouts of deep-seated panic and the need to nap.
I’ve been doing a ton of research for my novel Junk Yard Angel. I’m basically constructing my own Earth. I thank the Internet for making this so much easier and being able to have information at my fingertips such as how weather affects the land. I’ve literally been learning about farming because one of the towns is a farming community – using steam technology.
I’ve also been drawing my own maps. It’s such an amazing experience. I’m loving the research and adapting things into this faux unnamed world so similar to ours yet so very different. Although most of it won’t actually be in the novel, it does cement me better into this world I’m creating. Makes me feel like I’m part of it. Makes it real – and I love it.
Have you ever had to build your own world? How was the process for you?