Monday, April 13, 2015

World Building: Who's In Charge?



I’m continuing my thoughts on building the world your characters inhabit. Although this blogsite is geared toward paranormal romance, which includes science fiction romance, all of our stories are set in a certain world. Whether your story takes place in the past, the present, or the future, you will build a world. If your story is set in the Regency time period, you’ll need to consider the politics and customs of the time. Same with a story set in a post-apocalyptic era. Who is governing? Is anyone in charge?

I am a plantser—a combo pantser and plotter. Mostly I write by the seat of my pants, but I do (eventually) have to plot. Since I just plunge in and start writing, I don’t even think about government. But, like plotting, eventually I have to. While writing my Outer Rim series, I had to consider who maintains the peace on out the Frontier. My stories take place far from the “civilized” planets. Some things I had to consider are: is there a sheriff in the settlements? A mayor? Or does chaos reign? Is it survival of the toughest? Or has the central government sent out security forces to maintain law and order? If so, why?

Usually, we start out thinking about the microcosm surrounding our characters. If the bad guys beat up the hero, is there a recourse or does he have to resort to revenge? Are there authorities he can go to who will arrest the baddies? Are the authorities reliable or corrupt? Are there laws in place to protect the innocent? Who made the laws? All things we take for granted in the present day. Considering the stories in the news, we have much to think about that could influence our stories.

In science fiction, we tend to think broader than just the outpost, village, or city where our characters live. What type of government exists on the planet? Or is it like Earth today with multiple governing bodies of differing types? Is the government a representative type, a monarchy, a dictatorship, a confederation? Think the United Federation of Planets (Star Trek) or the Empire (Star Wars). How does that world impact our stories?

Just like with the background of the characters, you need to know everything about your world. The reader doesn’t. If you’re writing a series or a group of stories loosely connected, that world may evolve. In the majority of the Star Trek television shows and movies, we know a bunch of planets have joined together into a confederation. Knowing how this came about isn’t necessary for the episodes or movies. It’s just there. The exception is in the series “Enterprise,” which focused on the early days of space exploration and the formation of the Federation.

In your story, you get to decide what to focus on. And how much the reader needs to know. Like salt in food, use a light hand.

Diane Burton writes science fiction romance, as well as romantic suspense and mysteries. From a resort town on Lake Michigan to the Frontier of space, her characters occupy a variety of worlds. She’s currently writing the third book in her Outer Rim series. FMI, visit her website: www.dianeburton.com

17 comments:

Alyssa Alexander said...

Great post, Diane! Also, I love that word: plantser!

Alicia Dean said...

Love this! Great pointers. Stuff we don't always think about. Thanks for sharing your advice!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

I'm a panster too... 100% and many times I have no idea who is telling the story LOL!

Great post.
Good luck and God's Blessings!
PamT

Diane Burton said...

Thanks, Alyssa. I can't lay claim to that word. Also can't remember where I read it. :) But it fits.

Diane Burton said...

Alicia, I think we subconsciously think about what's happening in our "world." Research helps.

Diane Burton said...

Thanks, Pam. If I had to develop my whole world before starting to write my story, I'd never get it going. It's all sort of in the back of my mind. Eventually I have to write down the details of my world--so I remember. LOL

Marissa Garner said...

Thanks for a very informative post!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Again you made me think, Diane. Great information. Thank you.

Rosanne said...

Seat of the pants writer - never use an outline - force myself to write a synopsis if it's necessary to the publisher, but I almost never follow it. World building? - I LIVE in my world 24/7, even though I physically live in Michigan. In spirit I am out west - always. And yes, eventually you have to get into those details of law and government, etc. because it could affect the outcome - i.e. if a guy shoots someone, even in self defense, could he get in trouble? Or is this a place that is still pretty lawless? The more "lawless" the better I like it!

Melissa Keir said...

Great post Diane and a wonderful reminder that the world around the characters must be as real as our own if we want our readers to fall into it!

Diane Burton said...

Marisa & Margo, thanks.

Rosanne, your westerns are a great example of world building that you've built through the years.

Melissa, you're absolutely right.

M.J. Schiller, Romance Author said...

Great post! And I totally agree on the salt reference. I hate when people throw in too many details of their world. It can distract the reader and detract from the story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jolana Malkston said...

Great post, Diane. As a pantser, I sometimes paint myself into a corner when a story line in my fictional world presents a conundrum. I finally started keeping a world building "bible." It has been an enormous help.

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

Good post and all good things to keep in mind, even when creating a contemporary small town or neighborhood. Thanks for the tips.

Diane Burton said...

MJ, I know exactly what you mean. Not being sexist but . . . Some stories by and aimed at men give too much detail. Maybe that's what the audience wants. As for me, uh uh. Sprinkle in the details, don't bore me out of my skull. :)

Diane Burton said...

Jolana, I've been in those corners. Like you, I have to keep track of the details.

Diane Burton said...

Lucy, you're right. When I wrote my contemporary PI mystery, I had to know about law enforcement in small resort towns--during the winter (down time) and during the influx of visitors in the summer. Tiny details.