World Building

An interesting aspect of writing is the world building that might be necessary. I’d started out deciding, as mentioned a couple of posts back, deciding I was going to write a series of short stories and bind them into an ebook later. It seemed to me that would be an easier way to get a “sorta novel” done and out the door. The short story approach matched my most prevalent writing prior to this last year or two where I started working at writing a novel, or as it now stands a novel and a quadralogy.

So, I happily settled in and wrote the first short story: Voyage to Caer Headland. Cool! I enjoyed that, got it out, and thought to myself, let’s put these two novels on the back burner and just write a bunch of short stories about these guys.

Simple idea.

Execution? Starting to provide some surprises. Nothing really unexpected, but that Captain is taking me places I hadn’t expected to go so soon. Here I am, 4,912 words into the second short story. And I have the first 200 words of a premise for the next short story. And to keep it all straight, I have a Notes file of 1,337 words: People and places. On top of which I find I am seriously looking at having to create a world map. Can he get there from here? Which way does he go, by way of this port or that?

I know what I’m going to be doing this weekend.

Ironically, the current #WIP takes place entirely in one port. At least so far it does. I still have to decide if I’ll follow the resulting voyage in here or in another short story. This short story may well push 7,000 words before it’s done.

And all that gave me the topic for this particular blog. World building.

World building is having a bigger impact much sooner than I’d originally expected it would. I always knew that I’d have to deal with explicit world building sooner or later with this series of short stories, but I’ve never really had to deal with it before in any of my writing. With my RPG writing, the world was either the distant Past, and so already existed, or was a creative distant future where everyone contributed to the world. My novels are set in an existing world, so I don’t have to deal with it overly much.

I’d figured I could do at least 5 or so short stories around the Pa’adhe before I had to worry about world building. But less than half-way into the second short story in a planned series of many short stories I find myself having to take time out and map the world. In my notes, I’ve created two societies, several ports and towns, what’s essentially a monastery high up in the equivalent of the Himalayas, and of course that led to the overall layout of the Himalayas with respect to the continent. And ideas for two more short stories. Now I have to get that all down into a map so I can visually track things. It wouldn’t do to send him to Perl Domule then find out later I wrote it in the wrong hemisphere and the geology is all wrong. Wouldn’t want to get Slartibartfast upset with me.

I’d always thought that writing had an impact on world building but that world building came first. Now I’m finding that isn’t necessarily true, at least not for me. My quadralogy is in the same boat, I’ve got enough written out that before I return to writing it, I’m going to have to start the map for it. Especially since I have the epilogue of the first book already written out and it’s nowhere near where the story started. I’m going to have to get the hero there without tripping over all the places in between.

Thinking over this, I’m coming to the conclusion that you can write without world building, provided you restrict yourself to very few short stories set in the same world. That is, write a lot of short stories but place them in as many discrete worlds as you can so you don’t have to keep track of where everything is. Those that are in the same world, just don’t make too many references to places. But how long can you do that?

If you want to write a series of short stories set in the same world, you’re likely going to have to do at least some world building. And if you’re going to write a novel, go ahead and get started but be prepared to quickly start mapping things out. It’ll likely turn out to be easier the sooner you start that map so it’s probably a good idea to at a minimum start it as close to the same time you start writing as you can. Something I didn’t plan to do but find myself forced into anyway. Either that, or use an existing world.

Yep, gonna be creating a map or two this weekend.

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