I thought I would do a series of blog posts on fantasy world building, the genre that I am most familiar with, as I am a fantasy author. There are a ton of fantasy type blog posts out there, and I do not want to retread a wheel that has already been covered. So my thought is to bring you my perspective on fantasy world building. It is likely not how it is ‘recommended to be done’. But it is a way to do it. Bear with me.
I am not a plotter. I barely outline. I write by the seat of my pants. Sometimes those pants get very uncomfortable.
When I am preparing a new series concept, my normal process is to spend a couple of days researching on the internet. I google all kinds of information, filling my mind with weird facts and strange events, (some of which are real!) and then narrow my focus to specific points that interest me.
My current series, which is about to launch the first week of August, is entitled The Heart Of The Citadel. Book one is entitled Heart of Destiny.
Why did I name it that? Mainly because I saw a picture that made me think. One of my google searches came up with a picture of a lonely castle that sat at the top of a mountain in isolation, with nothing attached to it. The picture made me wonder why anyone would live there, what is the isolation all about? Is it intentional? Forced? Accidental? What are the possible reasons one would have for living in such seclusion?
My mind began to play with that theme and imagined a world where that isolated castle was actually the heart of the world. Much as our own beating internal hearts have many veins running to it, still all roads return to the center, to the heart of the world.
Once this concept was born in my mind, the world blossomed from it. Provinces, separate from the heart, yet tied to it in ways that were impossible to break. Bonds and histories intertwined with their neighbours yet separate, all feeding the organ in its center. Terror or disaster befalling any single province weakens the rest, weakens the heart.
World building, in its infancy, is really about discovering worlds that may already exist and adapting them to the story concept or theme you wish to explore.
For me, it is about discovering how the overarching world works, what makes it tick. What makes it move, live, breathe. If you can figure out those elements, you will have the successful base for a wonderful fantasy series. But hear me out. They must be believable. Magical, yes. Fantastical, of course, but still believable. You want to make your reader forget the outside world because the one he is visiting via your book is so real to them, they can taste it. They can smell it. It elicits a real, physical response. Give them that, make them shiver.
For me, I can only put so much structure to my process. When I over plan, when I attempt to spread sheet my story, all creativity drains away. It becomes a STRUCTURE. It becomes a cage, a prison. It becomes WORK.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t know what your story is about, where it is going, what the conflict is. That is essential to all good storytelling. What I am saying is, that for me, structure is too binding, too confining. If you experience this too, then give yourself the freedom to allow the characters to inform your writing.
Become the scribe. Write down their responses, record their conversations, witness their triumphs and their failures. Weep with them, rejoice when they endure and succeed.
Your book will be stronger and more captivating for getting out-of-the-way, and letting the story tell itself.
Wonderful things can happen then. They did for me.
They can happen to you, too.