Wednesday, May 13, 2015

World Building - Daily Life

I’m continuing my mini-series on world building. Like my books, I didn’t plan a series. It just sort of happened.

Let’s concentrate on daily life. Think about your own. What do you do each day? Your routines. Now think about the world in your story. What routines does your main character go through first thing in the morning?

Not to be indelicate, but where do they go to the toilet? An outhouse, a garderobe, a fancy en suite bathroom?

Next think about clothes. Everyday wear along with special event clothing. The character’s job would impact his/her attire. In my science fiction romance The Chameleon, Jileena wears frilly, floaty dresses that make her seem inconsequential, a real bubble-head—the image her father wants her to project as his spy. Away from his influence, her clothing reflects her serious side, precisely the image she wants the hero to see. As she changes, so do her clothes. In my WIP, The Protector, my heroine owns a tavern in an old-west style colony on the Outer Rim. She wears what’s common out on the frontier, unisex rugged shirt and trousers, sturdy shoes.

What does your character call meals? Breakfast, lunch, dinner? Second breakfast? Tea? What about food? If your story takes place on Earth, the foods would probably have names the reader is familiar with. In her St. Helen’s series (Amaryllis, Orchid, Zinnia), Jayne Castle’s inhabitants’ ancestors originally came from Earth. She combines the names of Earth-based foods to approximate the taste of native foods, like pear-berry pie.

But what if your story takes place in a completely alien environment? Using made-up names alone can confuse readers unless you give them clues. For example, mashed plantens or scrambled spherix eggs. You could have your character slicing enfils and selba then arranging the crisp vegetables on a plate as I did in The Chameleon.

Occupation. Does your character leave home for work or work from home? How does he get to work? Public transportation or private vehicle? Or is he so wealthy he doesn’t need to work? If so, what does he do all day? Play sports, cards, hang out with friends?

I’ve read that writers build their world in basically two ways: top down or bottom up. I tend to do the latter. Since I’m a pantser (as opposed to someone who plots first), I build my world as I need it—usually by asking myself why. As my characters develop and the story progresses, my world starts to evolve. Writers who plot first have all their ducks in a row before beginning to write. That is, they imagine the big picture first then narrow down the focus to the character. Whichever type of writer you are sort of determines how you will build your world.

As always, you know much more than the reader needs to. You can (probably should) have tons of notes on how everything in your world works—especially if your story turns into a series. I have a separate file on all the details of my world. If I didn’t, I’d forget those pesky little details. When I learn how to use Scrivener, I’m sure keeping details handy will be much easier.

Here are a couple of sites with a lot more information on world building. The first one is courtesy of author Greta van der Rol. This is a great, little (6.25 minutes) video.

The next one is courtesy of my critique partner Jolana Malkston who found it when I couldn’t.

Have fun in your world. If you do, I’ll bet your readers will enjoy it, too.

Diane Burton writes science fiction romance. She's currently working on the third book in her Outer Rim series, The Protector.


Alexis Morgan said...

Great blog with lots to think about, especially about seeing a world through the eyes of the character and understanding what their daily life is like.
And I love that list of world-building questions Patricia Wrede put together and posted at Sfwa. So much there to think about.

Jolana Malkston said...

I find Patricia Wrede's world building questions extremely helpful. Sometimes I focus so much on the big, fun details of the world I'm creating that I tend to overlook the less exciting details of every day life. You gave me food for thought. Very insightful post, Diane.

Melissa Keir said...

Wonderful information! I think we often overlook the important details but even if we don't use them in the story, we need to know about them!

Diane Burton said...

Thanks, Alexis. I love Patricia Wrede's questions. Very thorough.

Diane Burton said...

Hi, Jolana. Since I write from the bottom up, I tend to think about the little details. Unfortunately, I can get hung up on them and forget the big picture. ;)

Diane Burton said...

Melissa, you are so right. I have LOTS of details (and keep adding to them) in my Outer Rim world. Each story brings something new, and I find out a little more. I think I'm going to have to stay in that world for a while. LOL