Thursday, January 29, 2009

World Building

On my desk I have a notebook, a folder, pens, and three books.

On my wall I have a whiteboard scribbled with text and a storyboard pasted with pictures.


Because I’m beginning a new series filled with brand new concepts, characters and storylines. In essence, I’m building a world and these are my tools.

World building is one of the most exciting aspects of the writing process. You get to research, brainstorm and basically make stuff up. What’s not to love?

So let me breakdown how I use these tools and why they are necessary.

The notebook is the bible for my series. This is where I jot down ideas, research notes, dialogue snippets, plot points, character sketches and anything else that hits me along the way. Eventually, most of the stuff from the notebook gets recorded into my writer’s word processing program. I use WriteWay. But Word and Excel work great too. I use the same notebook for the entire series.

Next is the folder. Each is a different color for each book. The folder holds news clippings I may find interesting that tie into the theme, internet research, loose paper with notes I made when I didn’t have my notebook, photos, sketches and anything else I stumble across that rings of my story.

Pens and post-its are what I use to mark pages in research books I buy or borrow. The research books help tremendously when building a fictional world, even in the paranormal, sci-fi, or fantasy genres.

There are at least twenty authors I can think of off the top of my head who write about vampires and most of them differ greatly, but they all know the myths of the traditional vampire stories. That doesn’t mean they adhere to them. But they know what they are and if the garlic, sunlight, stake issues are ignored, you bet readers notice. Not to mention Fae, witches and weres. Real research comes in handy even in the mythical genres. In fact, employing lore makes for a more realistic storyline. A truer fantasyland.

To the whiteboard goes the brainstorming ideas. The what ifs? Of the plotlines. And the ‘rules’ of the world. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example.

Sookie Stackhouse can mind-read. But only if she’s in the room with the person. And only if the person is human.

These are rules. You can’t have a character who is all-powerful or all-knowing or the story wouldn’t be much fun to read. So even if you have a demon hunter, a werewolf, a sprite, a medium, or a ghost in your story, there has to be restrictions to their capabilities. Figure out what they are, then figure out ways around them and be consistent throughout the story. If that sprite only has a twenty year life-span, he better be dead by book three.

Last, the storyboard. This is fun. I get a poster board and clip images from magazines or websites that pertain to the story and glue them on. Right now, the board has photos of my protagonist, my villains, the setting, and a map. It’s a great way to visualize the story before you start writing. It also helps if you’ve been away from the work for a while, to guide you back to it.

So there you have it. How do you plan a new novel?

Barbra Annino

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