World Building- Literally the Ground Up

Reaching towards the sky higher than any of the buildings in the city by at least a half, the highway was a road as wide as a bus was long and held up in the heavens by ivory-white ribs made of steel and concrete. These gigantic struts were each covered by a mesh and striped with alternating bands of fungus and moss, each of these poles dipping into an evergreen valley filled with plant life. The road itself was encased in a cage of glass and metal supports creating a kilometres long tube reminiscent of a huge train. Even though some panels of glass had fallen out and chunks of the ribs had broken down, the titanic construction was in remarkable condition. A lammergeier flew just under the road itself, giving another indicator of its spectacular height. A ray of sunlight through the clouds cut through the glass and refracted over the sparkling tree tops.

New science-fiction authors generally have quite a task ahead of themselves. They have to create a whole new world for the readers to explore and this world is by definition different from the one we inhabit. So how can a sci-fi guy face and tackle this daunting task of moulding a world? Note that this advice can apply to any sort of world-building.

1. Create the image of the world. This step is vitally important to any piece of writing and world creation is not an exception. Create it as a full entity in and of itself before diving into your novel. You never know; perhaps the geyser field far away from the current or even eventual storyline could prove useful later.

2. Use the atmosphere and social perception. The 21st Century on Planet Earth within the Sol System of the Milky Way Galaxy is a place where most people are quite idealistic and optimistic. Generally, in my experience anyway, people believe that they can do things that matter and change their own circumstances. There are of course exceptions. Your world doesn’t have to be this way. It could be an extremely nihilistic existence wherever your world is, where the idealistic protagonist is repeated and brutally put down. It could be a world where the common man would be filthy rich by today’s standards and animal rights are abused for the entertainment of the masses. A world can be anything you want it to be as long as you…

3. Describe effectively. Make sure to include everything you need, nothing more and nothing less. What may seem like a mundane detail that you could quickly gloss over could be the hook that draws a reader into the novel, into its atmosphere (sometimes literally). Categorise the things that are different to the world that you know and write them down. They need not be the most extreme things. Subtlety sometimes aids believability. Think of any novel or film with an underground of any sort, be it criminal activity or an entire society. It could be something as simple as underground dogfights with dangerous performance drugs to something as extreme as the gladiatorial combat of genetically-engineered fighting beasts played in front of thousands.

4. Make the inclusion of the world’s details meaningful. All of these details mean nothing if they are deposited in gigantic info-dumps. The best way to include these sorts of things is in plot and in relevance to characters. The dog pits are a far-off tidbit of information until John, who is stricken with melancholy after creating the drug, appears on the scene or until Lucy mentions the pits as something she’s seen very often in the streets. That kind of weaving makes the world seem real rather than characters and the world being separate chunks in the space of your novel.The most important thing to do is to connect everything believably.

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