World building is exactly what it sounds like. It’s sitting down and writing a creation story or drawing maps; creating character sheets, inventing languages and cultures, magic systems and weather patterns.World building can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a serious momentum killer. It’s important not to be consumed by it.
The writing process for my latest novel started as an exercise: One short scene told in present tense, third-person objective (wacky challenge woeeohooo!).
The concept came like a painting, hanging in my imagination: I saw a boy humming a tune to himself on a river’s edge, the stars shining overhead, with a girl watching from the shadows of the far bank. I wrote the scene effortlessly, letting my imagination do whatever it wanted; and what it wanted was for a minotaur to come out of the forest to berate the children for being out so late at night.
I had never written in present tense before, and I thought it worked in the piece better than expected, drawing me in over the characters’ shoulders. But a few weeks later, when I reread the story, the story itself drew me in, and led right into another scene. I continued the story in the same experimental way, writing without plotting, world building as little as possible along the way (which is completely out of character for me! I am a world builder at heart!). The writing process had decidedly been to let the story tell itself. I did not understand how the magic in my world worked, and I did not understand what the world was like beyond its dystopian borders. I did not know my characters’ parents until I met them. I wrote more scenes, and then chapters. The project was a completed novella about two months later.
This is the first draft of a character sketch/world building exercise I did to help me better understand the origin of the deities and magic of my novel. I will be posting a more fleshed out version shortly, which stretches the story out and reveals a whole lot more about Khaos and her society.
I am known as Khaos to my people, though it has no great meaning to them yet. I have just learned (among other things) what it will come to mean, which it turns out is the antithesis to my thesis. The chaos of which I speak is a true danger to this world, and it is my compulsion to create structure, rules which promote homeostasis, stability, so that chaos cannot unravel that which I love and cherish; my people, my family.
I will be the one to shape the rules of this world. I know this because this morning I became omniscient. I am a God, or what will be called a God in the years to come.
When I woke up, just a few moments ago, from my grassy place in the corner of my dirt floored, stick-and-mud hut, I didn’t understand why fire always came to the fire pit when I needed it to warm the cooking pot, and when I looked through the open doorway and thought the crop looked thirsty, I didn’t understand why rain began to fall. I simply thought that was how it was supposed to be. I was puzzled by clouds, and by stars, by plants and animals; by sun and moon. I had a very incomplete knowledge of everything; but it was my love to question life, to question these things, and the question that I asked myself today was, can I know the answers to these questions, of the fire, and of the rain? and instead of wondering about the answers themselves, I decided to know them, and then I did. It was then that I became aware of my omnipotence, and decided I could know the answers to all questions, and I do. I now have complete knowledge, and am the first and only omniscient.