One of the reasons I opted to do a fantasy NaNoWriMo novel this year is because I really enjoy the process of world building.
But what is world building?
Well, as can be derived from the name, it’s all about creating the world that your story inhabits. I’ve done a little world building in my prior two NaNo novels, but they’re both in a much more limited way. The setting for my 2011 effort can be described as “Like 1940s Earth, with these two German not being caught by the FBI” and for 2012, “Like present-day Earth except that these 8 individuals received powers when the Columbia shuttle crashed.” And while those were both solid hooks for me to start hanging a story and world on, anything that starts off “Like Earth,” isn’t going to be rife for world building.
For that, you have to go to two of the big genre staples, science fiction and fantasy. I’ve decided to go with fantasy as I’m not interested in how the implications of technology affect my setting, and I like the idea of having magic and active gods and so forth to play with.
For me, around 80% of the effort I put into world building won’t even make it into the novel, except as little throw away references. A character might mutter the name of a god as an oath or so they haven’t seen something since “the Sundering of Vorgen” but I’m not going to explain who the god is or what Vorgen was and why it was ever sundered (I will, say those little swine deserved it, though).
Going to my logline (Told you, it would be reappearing consistently!):
“A dissolute knight is possessed by a century-old sacrificial victim to overthrow a cruel god.”
This already gives me three or four things to work on with building my world. The presence of a knight to me implies knightly orders. I’m also a fan of heraldry, so I imagine I’ll at least brainstorm some of the iconography associated with the nine orders of knighthood on my world. (Why nine? Because it’s a sacred number on the continent the story takes place in)
Now we have a sacrificial victim. Sacrifice implies some kind of organized religious hierarchy, such as churches or temples. I have a couple of ideas, including some denominational and theological disagreements that caused churches to split into rival organizations. I’m pretty sure almost none of that’s going to make it into the story as yet. I’m also considering what the sacrifice is for in the eyes of those performing it.
And the mention of an evil god implies that there are other gods present in the pantheon of this world. Also, who’s to say the characters are right in considering any of the gods good or evil? Gods and goddesses may be above such petty concerns as morality and the nature of good or evil, or they may be squabbling dysfunctional families a la the Greek model.
And of course, that century of time that’s passing is going to have a whole gaggle of event occurring within it, even if the knight is ignorant of them for the most part, not everyone whom he meets will be.
What aspects fo world building appeal to you? And what do you feel you need to develop based off of your idea or synopsis?