Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Building a World

Information flow is a tricky beast for me.  I spent lots of time during my undergraduate and graduate degrees examining books with beautiful language, excellent characterization, timeless themes...and absolutely no magic.  Or, if there was magic, it was allegorical and in a seventeenth-century poem.  So I get out of school, and I write a book, and I find that I have strategies for characters.  And language.  And themes.  But I discover that there's also this thing called world building, where you have to explain how your magic works, where you have to set up rules in a careful way to make your book punchy-surprising at the end.

And it's something I never learned how to do.

For an example of my rewriting style, I'll share my strategy for characters: I highlight each main character with a single color, every line they speak, every action they do (sometimes I just draw lines down the side).  Then I take a page in my notebook and make a list of their goals, attributes, habits when they're nervous/angry/happy--anything I know about the character, including what I want the reader to feel at various points.  Sometimes I make (bad) sketches.  And then I go back through the manuscript with my colored markers and rewrite (or give a page in my notebook where I rewrite).  And it works.  Sometimes it takes me a few drafts, but it works!

I need something like that for world/magic building.  Ideas are welcome.  And I'll let you know what I end up doing, because if you're crazy enough to write fantasy, you've got to build those words into worlds!


  1. I'm catching up a bit on blog reading. That seems to always follow catching up a bit on blog writing. I love this visual for your editing approach. Sounds like fun! I have no ideas for your world editing, but I still think this is pretty cool.

  2. I stole the visual from another author's website. And thanks! I shall have to tell you about my process if you ever want to write a book (which I would want to read!). :)