So far, we have focused our preptober efforts on the dual arm of plot and character, but those are not the only two considerations while planning a story. This week is to prep all the remaining details that are pertinent to your story.
Planning out the rest of this “stuff” includes world building, but it is not inclusive to solely that. This stage of the game could involve researching aspects that grant authenticity to your novel, like real scientific concepts or “how long is a non-stop flight from NYC to London”. You could be inventing special occasions that drive the plot forward, i.e., a giant solstice celebration that serves as a ticking time-clock for the protagonist. You could even be imagining different types of weaponry your characters will use to win the epic final battle.
World building is NOT just for fantasy writers
I am a fantasy writer, so I’m biased. Half the fun of writing fantasy is dreaming up new worlds, creating magic systems, and inventing cultures and subcultures that differ from ours.
But world building is found in ALL genres of fiction, even if contemporary. Your characters live within the pages of your world, interacting in the same space as the plot. The world building is the stage that the players are set, and it influences key aspects of the actions and motivations of both the characters and the events of the story.
Have fun with world building
When working on world building, you will be considering the following:
- Socioeconomic classes
- Animals and creatures
- Sacred/offensive actions
- Rules and Laws
This is just to name a few. When considering these items in your world, think about how things interact together. The climate can influence the food and clothing. The religion can influence the holidays. Each aspect might impact a higher or a lower socioeconomic class… or you have no divisions of classes.
When it comes to world building, there are no limitations. Constructing a world can be a vast and intricate process, or you can build a world much like our own and change only a couple aspects.
No matter how in-depth you get with world building, I highly recommend keeping a book bible to compile all of those details together, so that it is an easy reference when writing.
Use your personal experiences
It doesn’t matter if you’re creating a story set in a medieval castle of an elven realm or a Colorado Ski lodge, your personal perceptions and experiences shape the settings and situations of your story.
Not only can you take influence from real geographic locations, you can also tap into your own experiences of discovery something or some place new. What were the emotions of learning new customs or cultures? What elements stood out to you? What were you excited to learn more about? By answering those questions regarding the fictional world you’re building, you are putting yourself into the perspective of the reader, who will be seeing the world through the lens of your creation.
Play with genre tropes
The possibilities are endless when it comes to world building, however, the genre you write in sets preconceived notions of what is expected in your world building.
Fantasy readers (especially the sword and sorcery variety) expect richly diverse geographies with distinct and unique settings. Since fantasy readers expect there to be a larger world building learning curve, fantasy writers have a larger threshold of weird and intricate details that can be injected into the story.
Sci-fi readers can also have elaborate secondary worlds, but readers’ expectations shift toward space and technology, less magic and dragons.
Horrors and thrillers tend to have darker and grittier environments in common.
Dystopian world building plays on tropes of authoritarian regimes, monochrome landscapes, and brutalist architecture.
The tropes exist because of what was written in the genre in the past, but that doesn’t mean you are locked into the same settings or situations. If you do get stuck during world building, you can look at what is already done and expected and ask yourself, “how can I make this different?”
What are extras?
I didn’t want this article to be exclusive to world building, since I’ve already done an article about that. When planning your novel, you might have a miscellaneous bucket of ideas that might not quite fit into your outline, character bios, or world building resources. It could be lines of dialogue, tropes you want to explore, a situation your characters find themselves in.
There are a million ideas that can come when brainstorming a novel. Some are poop and some are golden. When prepping to write a novel, it will be helpful to capture ALL of these loose ideas. (Yes, even the small and crappy ones)
How you capture it is up to you.
When I start a new novel, I begin with a concept. I write the concept in my notes app. If the concept is compelling enough, I will immediately have additional ideas. These might be relevant to the plot, characters, or world building. I hold no bias and I just cram as much as I can and collect it all on that notes page.
Once I’ve decided that the story is one I want to pursue writing, I take that bucket of notes and organize it.
Ways to stay organized and on track
Organization can come in many forms, and what works for me might not work for you. (Heck, what worked for me on one project doesn’t always work for the next). Next week is our fourth and final week of preptober, and it is going to discuss methods of organization.
Additionally, next week’s article will have tips for staying on track when writing a novel, especially when setting yourself for a challenge that is NaNoWriMo.
World Building Resources
- Here’s some help for world building.
- Creating fictional holidays
- Tropes: Romance, tension boosting, when to cliche
- NaNoWriMo’s World Building Questionnaire
Thanks for reading! Reach out with any requests for future content or to share your Prep-tober/NaNoWriMo journey with me!