When I was in high school, I ran a Sonic the Hedgehog fan site. Since I liked to write fan fiction and draw, I hosted other people’s stories and artwork. One of those creative guys wound up as my husband.
He wanted to lift ideas from his fan fiction and turn them into an original novel. He tried lots of times, but the world just wasn’t developed enough to support the plot he wanted.
So we would take long walks together, usually down to our local McDonalds for a drink and a pie, pushing a stroller. We talked and talked, arguing, hammering out the world-building for what would become the Spacetime universe.
First, we had to build the basic story world. Here’s some of the questions we asked:
- The hero has both time and space powers. But why is this important?
- Why don’t the time mages rule everybody else?
- How do the mortal angels fit in? If a guy loved an angel who turned evil, could either of them be redeemed?
- We’d better make the catgirls believable. I know! Let’s lampoon the obvious sex appeal!
- How does the multiverse work, and how can we use it to explain non-human races?
- What is the Chronostrider Council, and why is it important? Will anybody ever notice that the High Council are named after the Gospels: Matthias, Markus, Lucas, and Jonas?
The answers to these questions slowly built the foundation for the Spacetime Legacy universe.
Each book, however, requires lots and lots of details. This is micro world building.
Some questions for the second book, Chronocrime:
- How does Indal’s hyperspace werewolf form work? Why does using magic trigger his transformation?
- What sort of crimes might people commit in a world of time and space powers?
- If people were smuggling goods between worlds, how would they do it, and what might they smuggle?
- How to plan and execute a murder that runs backward in time?
Questions, questions, questions. After each brainstorming session, I would write everything down, so as not to forget it. We often joked that we were writing our own Silmarillion.
Good world-building is like good journalism. Who, what, when, where, why, how. Ask these questions over and over, about everything.
Spacetime takes place in our modern world, so we didn’t have to worry so much about culture, languages, economics, and so forth. But if you’re building a world from scratch, you have to know all those things. One of the easiest ways to do this is to borrow an Earth culture and adapt it.
There are lots of resources out there to help you do this. My favorite remains the Way With Worlds column, which explores everything from biology to economics to religion of fantasy worlds.
Now go forth, and create new worlds at the macro and micro levels!
Kessie Carroll is an avid speculative fiction author, and currently lives in Arizona with her husband and five children.