World Building

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Oddly enough, I have not built a world in quite some time.Since so much of my writing the last year has been non-fiction, I had forgotten how much fun it can be.My buddy and I conceived a project together when a particular publisher let it be known they were looking for new stories for their franchise. He’d written for them already and while the editor and I kept chatting about my working for her, nothing ever came of it. By teaming up, I figured it would force my way into their lineup and I could then solo.Way back in 2008, he and I worked up some ideas and crafted a proposal. However, by the time the outline was ready, the editor was told to stop buying. Well, so much for that. But, all we had to do was tweak a few elements and we suddenly had an original fantasy we could shop almost anywhere.Since then, we have contacted editors and watched months slip by before one or another finally got around to passing.  One wrote, “I quite like what you’ve got here.  I’m not at all surprised given who is cooking up the plot.“The problem isn’t the concept but the economy.  I wish I could take this project on as it sounds like a lot of fun.  But things are really tight right now as you well know.  I hope this gets sold so I can get to read it.”Another rejected it on August 5, 2009 and again on September 1 — just to make certain, I guess.Finally, my partner got himself an agent and he’s been working hard, getting him assignments. He agreed to push this but wanted sample chapters to accompany the outline and we agreed that made sense. I told him I was clearing my schedule for projects like this and two days ago was all set to begin.However, when I reread the outline, I realized we had a story but no world. In the course of six e-mail exchanges, my buddy and I bandied ideas back and forth. I tried to come up with variations on the traditional tropes and he eagerly glommed on to this and began adding his own notions.When you build a world that is Earth-like but not Earth, you need to figure out equivalent eras and societies as a starting point and then figure out one or two things that make them different and run with it. For example, let’s say our story is set in the Bronze Age (it isn’t) but on our world, it’s still one super-continent, not seven. Most of the countries would be landlocked, what does that do to society, economy, trade, and war? Once you begin theorizing, your world begins to take shape.Since we had a story, we needed a world where our story could still be told and as we began building, B and C plots began suggesting themselves. We’re now a lot closer to a world we can use and apply to the outline so the actual sample writing can begin soon.I can’t wait.

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