Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Worldbuilding Considerations Part One -- Setting

Cross-posted from The Secret Archives of the Alliterati.

I've been thinking about the world a lot lately.

Wait, you thought I meant our world? Oh no no no -- see I've been thinking about the fictional world that I helped birth as part of the Steampunk Round Robin story that I posted about the other day. Thinking about the culture of that world, and their history, and their technology, and their language. See, one of the things that always thrills me about writing speculative fiction is the fact that I can craft entire worlds out of my mind's eye and populate them with unusual people and animals.

I'm loathe of course to say that one way of building a fictional world is any better than another, so this won't be a huge pedantic lecture where I tell you "This is the right way and this is the wrong way." (I'm such a huge believer in guidelines over rules anyway that it would be supremely hypocritical of me to do so.) That said, this series will deal with a few things that I consider when building a fictional world. The first thing of course is:


Where is your story set? In a city? In the countryside? Some other place?

This consideration is important because the setting of your story will determine how much worldbuilding you may or may not do. It'll also determine how much detail you go into. Consider my as-yet-unfinished novel CALLARION AT NIGHT. That story is set in and around the city of Callarion. Because of this setting, limited to one specific city, I went into a whole lot of detail about the streets, buildings, districts, etc -- about to the level that you'd expect from a heavily detailed map of the Upper West Side of New York City.

On the other hand, if I only spend a chapter in Callarion and then moved to a different city or country entirely, I wouldn't need to spend the same amount of time on the city.

In the other story I reference all the time, SON OF MAGIC, the characters visit essentially every part of their world at some point or another. So, because they go all over an entire planet, I needed to determine how many continents there were, what geographies they had, land forms, oceans and other bodies of water, so on and so forth. It may seem to involve more detail, but this is surface stuff rather than hardcore mapping.

Building a full-on world also involves delineating the boundaries of nations, city-states, and placing mountain ranges and lakes depending on your chosen geography. If, however, your story takes place inside a city then you might not have to center on the physical geography of the natural landscape unless your setting has a park of a significant size.

So you can sort of see here that the smaller, or larger, your setting gets the less or more detail you comparatively have to deal with. Set your story inside a house and you only have to build the house. Set it as a world- or galaxy-spanning tale and you have to build a whole heck of a lot more.

What other worldbuilding considerations do you think your setting requires?

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