Thursday, February 12, 2009

World Building -- more than a list of attributes

I'll be doing a World Building Workshop at the National Romance Writers' Conference in August this year. You might ask what romance authors need world building for, but one of the hottest sub genres is Paranormal Romance -- Vampires and Werewolves in down-town Brisbane/Melbourne/LA. Also a favourite with readers are fantasy-romance and futuristic romance.

If you google world building you'll find lots of useful tips with lists of all the things you need to consider from climate, to society structure. But, for me, the most important thing is how the world/society your character lives in, shapes the person they are and their life choices. So I'll be concentrating on this aspect of world building when I run the workshop.

To me, the one thing every writer needs in insatiable curiosity about the world and its people, especially, if they are going to write the kind of books that require world building. You only have to look at our own world and observe the disparity in beliefs and life styles, to realise even the society of one medium sized city is not homogenised. So taking a one-size-fits-all approach to world building is not going to give you enough textural depth to create a rich believable world.

People do some strange things for some very strange reasons. If your loved one was dying, would you refuse them life-saving medication? You would, if it went against your religious beliefs. As long as your character is doing something for a noble reason, they can do outrageous things and the reader will forgive them. Now it seems we are veering into charcterisation. But that's the thing about writing, so much of it is interconnected. If you don't create a rich world for your character, they aren't going to have enough depth to make the reader care. And if the reader doesn't care passionately, you've lost them.

So the best thing you can do as a writer is read about our world, read history, read about societies. In New Guinea there are about 7 million people, speaking over 1000 languages. Villages can be within a day's walk of each other and share completely different beliefs and social structure. There is literally a feast of information out there.

But where do you start? This is what I'll be covering in my World Building Workshop at the Romance Conference.

Cheers, Rowena.


Havock21 said...

Thats enlightening and only in a few paragraphs that you had.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Thanks. It is one of the topics 'How Long is a Piece of String?'

Flinthart said...

I generally go with "what things do I need to influence my characters in the direction I want them to go?" and work backwards from there. Usually I have the story in mind, of course, so rather than build a story to meet the requirements of the world, I'm building a world that sustains the story. Actually... I find it kind of difficult to imagine going in the other direction.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Dirk, that is exactly where I come from. The world grows as the book grows. As long as you have read widely and can draw from a deep tough of trivia, and as long as it all holds together. It works!

When I do the workshop I'm going to come at it from this direction.