Worldbuilding – A Question

I’m currently reading Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. I’m late to the party, I know. Actually, I read the first book before the first movie came out, but hadn’t read the others until the last one (loved it). No real reason why I haven’t read them all. I guess I just was reading other things. Anyhow, I love me some Order of the Phoenix right now.

The sign of a good book for me, is if you see me carrying it around throughout the day, trying to sneak a few words in here or there between playing with the daughter or making sure the baby isn’t crawling toward something is isn’t supposed to be crawling to (this is his default direction, of course). It is a rare book that does this to me, but I cherish it when it happens.

I guess I can see where some of the critics are coming from, as far as the writing in the Harry Potter books goes. Ms. Rowling has a few “was-es” in there and her share of adverbs. These are the things us wanna-be writers are told to avoid. Her stories are so good, though, and her world so detailed, I really don’t thing these writing faux pas matter.

This is my biggest writing weakness. I’m a bit “seat of the pantser”. I can’t write from an outline and have trouble doing any planning before I write. I kinda just make things up as I go. I can pull this off pretty well in flash fiction and short stories. I don’t need to know a lot of details. It’s just not working for novel writing.

Does anybody have a good technique or know of software or ANYTHING that makes world building easier or more fun? I’m willing to try any method once, other than the stale old outline. Tried it. Can’t make it work. Outlines take all the fun of writing out of it for me. Help me!

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6 thoughts on “Worldbuilding – A Question

  1. World building isn’t outlining. It’s just figuring out the logic of the story. A typical world-building list would be:

    – Non standard rules: i.e. if you have magic what are the limitations, or if set in the future what technology has developed
    – Character background: age, personality, distinctive marks, backstory that may be important (sometimes I do these as short stories)
    – Map of any key locations you already have in mind.
    – Any other weird stuff you need to remember but doesn’t directly feature in the story.

    You shouldn’t be wedded to these things, or spend too much time on them, but they do help with longer works.

    Just my thoughts.

  2. i agree with the sign of a good book being carrying it around and not wanting to do anything else.

    I struggle with word building all the time but I think with time it’s definitely gotten better. I took a course once and that really helped.

  3. Maps – even if it is set in a real place and you already think you know it in your head. Draw maps of everything: inside of an apartment, neighborhood, inside of a store where a particularly interesting scene takes place . . . anything. If you’re at all visual, this can at least get you in the right mindset.

    Collage – pull interesting images from magazines, even if they don’t quite fit your story, and figure out how they fit in later. Come up with details and histories for the images.

    Photos – Take pictures of interesting places while you’re around town or on vacation and use those as visual reminders when you need to describe a building or field or whatever.

    Usually, I do collages before I start a story, but I try not to worry too much when I’m drafting. I figure I can worry about the details later. But I know some fantasy writers will spend like a year doing worldbuilding stuff, sometimes overlapping while they’re finishing up another project.

  4. Oh as you know I love those books. I’m glad you are reading more of them and not just seeing the movies, again as you know, the books are always so much better.

    I think maybe you don’t like the idea of outlining from before the beginning, like at the amusement park, if right before you hoped into that car, you looked ahead and saw that metal pipe it is attached to, and saw the whole course set out in front of you, no surprises, nothing of interest just a curvy loop, where you get to “pretend” you are steering. I no longer think of an outline like that. It is something I do (or make attempts at) after I have been kicking the story around for a while. It is mostly jotting down what I already know, in its relative location to each other. And then noticing all the places in between where I don’t know what happens, and wondering how I will get from place to place. More like having a vague map of Walt Disney World and the Hundred Acre wood, and jotting down some places you hope to visit on each, but not being positive what will happen when you get there, and knowing you will need to go through some other areas in between, places which are not currently on any map. I don’t now find an outline confining, it is more like taking a drive cross country, good to know where you want to start, to end up, and jotting down a few places you wish to hit in the middle, but the experience itself will always take its own course once started. (still wide open)

    Maybe you just aren’t an out liner, that is fine.
    Yeah I guess no matter what writer’s need to build worlds, but you can flesh stuff out later. That is what I love about researching. Something relates to the story so I read up on it, and what I read starts giving me more ideas that I can add to the story, stuff I wouldn’t have thought of before, and this adds layers, or causes new directions.

    I like the suggestions of the others, the collages, the maps, the drawings.

    I hope you find some tools that really help you to move forward. 🙂

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