The past couple of weeks most of my efforts have been on worldbuilding. As many of you are writers and will already know, worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world. While a fantasy world is very imaginary, even literary fiction and other genres must do some form of worldbuilding.
Since I am a fantasy writer, I will focus on what I have learned about worldbuilding for this genre. While my favorite part about fantasy is hands-down deep and complex characterization I love the complex worlds that writers create. It helps take me to a new time and place. This is done in the details and nuances of the world that the author has created. Since I'm not that great at detail, I have to really work at this, which is why solid worldbuilding exercises are so important for me.
There are two different ways that you can go about worldbuilding: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down begins with a general overview of a world and then drills down into details while bottom up begins with a very small area and as the story progresses the author adds as needed.
Personally I do a bit mixed. Actually the premise for my current novel started with a map of a world because, as described in my description of my WIP, the world itself is disappearing along the edges. After I drew the general world I went to my focus town, the capital city of a country that borders the edge and started bottom-up from there. However, now I am getting to the point where I need to create cultures and traditions for the other peoples and countries in the world. I guess I approach it from a perspective of worldbuild what you need, plus a little bit more. Who knows, maybe it will give you new plot ideas.
One thing that I think is important is trying to add something different to the world. It seems like every book has it's politics based off of medieval Europe. Not that I am dissing that because part of mine is, but even with Kings or Emperors there are so many different types of governments. Think Japan, ancient China, India, the Aztecs. Spend a little time looking into different cultures and how the rule of those in charge affected the lives of the citizens.
When worldbuilding there are several different aspects to consider. Each will add a different flavor to your writing. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
- What kinds of foods do they eat?
- What is your character's favorite food? Why?
- What traditions occur with meals? Does your character like this?
- What is the religion?
- Are there any Feast Days or Holidays associated with this religion?
- What usually happens on these Feast Days?
- What does your protagonist like to for the Feast Days?
- Did any especially positive or negative things happen on one of these days to the protagonist as a child?
- What is considered the normal family or living unit?
- What sorts of dwellings do they live in?
- How do people "date" or "court" each other?
- What is the biggest offense you can give in the culture?
- What is a "rude" hand gesture?
- What is the climate like?
- How far away is the nearest water source?
- How do they obtain water?
- How do they obtain food?
- Is there magic?
- Is the magic associated with the religion?
Also, when creating maps, make sure you follow general rules of physics, or make your own up but make sure to explain why you can follow that particular world. Wikipedia has some great thoughts about this.
So how do you go about worldbuilding? Is there anything particular you do? Do you take a top down or bottom up approach?