Hello Space Cadet, today I release into the multiverse my first World Building Wednesday where I talk about my process. This isn’t the only way to build your world, or write a novel, this is just what works for me. Keep in mind, I have to work around my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) with my process. These limitations force me to rely heavily on notes, outlines and a paper filing system where all the world building stuff is organized and collated.
First, let me show you how I organize my shiny new idea! This is a broad outline of my organizational thought. Each of these steps often leads me to rabbit trails that flavor my story. And remember, anything can be a source for the idea. Books you’ve read, movies you’ve seen, the news and conversations with friends. People you’ve observed in public, conversations you’ve overheard. The world is your creative muse, use it and abuse it.
- The shiny big new idea!
- What do I need to make the idea work?
- Characters (People)
- Settings (Places)
- Equipment and Gear (Things)
- Create the world that the story takes place.
- Notes on the history of the world.
- Maps where I draw the actual world
- Key cultural things such as, but not limited to, religion and political thought.
- Research anything you need to know for your story.
- Outline this shiny new idea.
- Write the shiny new idea!
So, to summarize the list above, I start with an idea or a character. Then I flush this idea out a little bit at a time, with ideas based on what I need for the plot. I keep going, until I have a kernel of a world. I flush it out, again, with the stuff I need for the story. This can include researching things, or just the random thoughts that pop up along this path to creation.
One big rule I have for myself is that I leave myself room to tell more stories in the future. The best advice I ever received on writing was from a stranger at my local Starbucks. I was sitting there plotting out the various parts of my universe and I had papers spread all around me. He advised me to “Never paint yourself into a corner.” This stranger gave me great advice, and I use it with my own world. Just enough to make the story work, in case it leads to rabbit trails that become different stories.
Writing for Tim C. Taylor, however, means most of the larger world issues are already made for me. This will be a fact for anyone writing in someone else’s sandbox. That said, working with Tim has been great. He gives me room to do a lot be creative tinkering, with a few rules I can’t break. For example, I can’t use FTL (Faster Than Light Travel) when writing in the Human Legion Universe but the characters and plot is open to anything I can imagine. Mainly, he is focused on historical consistency, not changing the cannon and ensuring I not frakk up the aliens he created.
I’ve talked with authors who write in other shared universes, to include a few who write in the Warhammer 40K world and it seems these are universal truths. It can be a lot of fun, in the same way people enjoy writing fan fiction, but there are some constraints. You get the benefit of a universe full of possibilities waiting for you. As you read the books in said universe, those thoughts that tingled in the back of your mind can be addressed. The what if’s, or what happened to Character X when the curtain fell. That can be a thrilling proposition for a new author who is unsure of himself. It allows you to get your feet wet in the writing process, with some of the guesswork taken out. Another benefit, especially for a new author, is writing in a shared world generally comes with a built-in audience. In this the universe creator benefits as well, by having you potentially attract new readers to his will or world.
Now that we’ve covered the topic in broad strokes, let me drill down to show you how my Sleeping Legion series came to be. I was reading Tim’s book Renegade Legion and ideas kept flopping around in the back of my mind. What about the Marines still in Beta City? And maybe they could fix those training hulks floating around in space? I wrote it all down on a list, and messaged it to Tim. I asked him to write those stories too! Wow, sort of arrogant fanboy, no? At that point in time I was working on his Wiki so we were in contact with one another anyway. Around this time period (2014) I had already started working on my own New Carthage Republic idea. I mailed Tim’s publishing house the first chapter and summary, seeking representation. We already had a working relationship, so why not? He said no, told me it was a good idea but that he wasn’t open for business anymore. Instead, he was focusing on his own writing and didn’t have time to run a publishing house anymore.
I kept writing, bummed, but still writing. A week later he contacted me with a counter proposal. Write in his world on those ideas of mine! It wasn’t a done deal, but he was prepared to be convinced if I sent him a proposal. I sent him the proposal for the novella’s we talked about. He approved and a contract was signed!!! I even wore a wig, in honor of his British sensibilities. Somehow those novellas became novels, but that is the origin of the Sleeping Legion Series.
In the coming weeks I’ll elaborate more on the world building, from maps to tech and everything in between, so stay tuned!
Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!
–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section.