Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Integrating Your Storyworld

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

This post now part of the book Storyworld First: Creating A Unique Fantasy World For Your Novel by Jill Williamson.

You’ve spend a lot of time planning out your storyworld. You may even have recently been cured of storyworld builders disease. Now you’re finally writing the book, but the pieces aren’t falling into place! How do you use all the cool stuff you’ve created? Where does it fit in your book without turning into an info dump? Do you need an index of terms? A prologue that explains the backstory? What do you do?

1. Don’t panic.
It’s great that you know so much about your storyworld. But don’t panic if you aren’t finding places to put everything when you’re writing your first draft. The first-draft stage isn’t the time to get everything right. So, get the thing written, even if it’s a mess. Keep in mind that your characters should experience the world as they experience the plot. So look for places to describe interesting scenery, plant life, or beasties, weapons, vehicles, or magic. Whenever possible, make it part of the action.

2. Story is key.
You may have created the coolest storyworld ever, but if you don’t have amazing characters and a gripping plot, no one will likely care. Focus on writing a strong story apart from the storyworld. If you have that, then add a great storyworld to it, and your story will rock.

Hopefully there are parts of your storyworld that will be a part of your plot. Look through your storyworld info and see what you’ve already worked into the first draft and what is missing. For the things that are missing, brainstorm ways that each aspect might tie in with characters, the overall plot, or subplots. Some things just might not fit. And that’s okay. You don’t have to use everything.

3. Most the magic happens in the rewrite.
Once you’ve written your first draft and have taken a good look at your characters and plot, now it’s time to look for places to integrate your storyworld. Pass through the book once, editing for dialogue and fit in any storyworld phrases, language, and slang. Pass through again and look for storyworld terms that you need to make consistent. For example, in my book Captives, people don’t “hail” taxis, they “wave” them. But I forget when I’m writing fast, so I catch those in my rewrites.

Edit for consistency in your magic, weather, or whatever cool things you have. If you’re trying to work in history, be choosy. It’s usually not necessary to give the reader everything. History can be delivered to the reader in creative ways. Have you tried any of these: One character can tell others a story. A character can find a book of history. Rituals can be performed in religion or for holiday that are based on historical events. Traditions can be based on history, whether it be types of foods, ways of naming children, promoting soldiers, or arranging furniture in a house. Superstitions come from history too. As do cautionary tales or things parents might warn their children about (Beware of glowing rocks in the bottom of a lake.)

4. Prologues are allowed.
If you feel like it is the best way to tell the story, go ahead and use a prologue, just beware of the cliché prologues that tell an ancient history or leave a baby on a doorstep. I’m not saying you can’t use those, just know that lots and lots of people have. So you need to make yours different.

5. Use an index if you have to.
Indexes might overwhelm your reader, especially if you put it in the front of the book. I’m a fan of indexes in the back, though that is a decision the publisher might make for you.

6. You don’t have to use it all.
Just because you thought of it, doesn’t mean it has to go in the book. Fight the urge to put it all in. It’s not necessary. Part of storyworld building is for you to get to know your world so you can get to know your characters so you can write a believable fantasy or science fiction story. Use what fits naturally and doesn’t feel forced. Leave the rest in your file for some other story.

Any questions? 


  1. Well, I'm writing historical fiction. This is even harder for me because I cannot MAKE ANYTHING UP! I've spent hours laboring over books, researching 16th century London. Ugh. I think I'm procrastinating right now. Back to my MW document...

    1. 16th century London? I want to read this when it's published :)

    2. That's true, Shaneene. Historical accuracy is important, imo. But it's a lot of hard work! I understand your desire to procrastinate!

    3. :) Thanks Hannah J. If it ever gets published. You'll probably be reading books from the great library up in the sky by then. Ugh, this book is taking forever!!!!!!!!

      And for Mrs. Williamson:
      I'm probably procrastinating right now.

      For everyone:
      I really need more self-discipline. But the lure of GTW is too much to bear.
      Well, back to the drawing (er, writing) board!

    4. 'The lure of GTW is too much to bear.' I feel ya! That's the only problem with this place. It's too awesome. ;)

    5. LOL, this place is too awesome. Since I found it, I've been writing better, and writing less. :) Can't stay away!

    6. Catsi, we always seem to end up in a conversation together! :) Hey, how old are you? I'm fourteen.

    7. Fifteen! Let's be friends. OK, now I feel like I'm two. :)

    8. Let's! Would you want to exchange e-mails?

  2. Helpful post, even though I don't have an 'own' storyworld in my current project. Maybe I can try it in another story.
    How much time have you spent on creating the worlds in your books?

    1. For me, one to three months is average. But that doesn't mean I'm spending 8 hours a day on storyworld alone. I usually start brainstorming a new book while I'm finishing up the final edits on one that is almost done.

  3. Ha, definitely avoid those glowing rocks in the lake. You never know when exposure to them could turn you into a heat-sucking monster... Smallville's the best.

    Thanks for the handy post. I'm not working on any big storyworlds at the mo, but I've got a bigger-scale one percolating for an eventual WIP, so I'll be sure to keep this in mind when I do start working with it.

  4. One of the projects I'll be writing when I'm done with my current WIP is a fantasy, and I also have several dystopia ideas, so this post will be fantastic for future reference. Thanks, Jill!

  5. This is a really good idea. For me, my current novel (yep, *still* the same one) was really more about the story than the world, so I went into my novel figuring out the world-building as I went. This'll be helpful for the second draft, though.
    Thanks, Jill!

  6. im writing a trilogy and decided the next phase of my MC's journey will begin in a newer story world kind of setting. i'm using the first book in the trilogy to "integrate" the idea into the readers minds now so that when the second one is written it wont be much of a shock. i'm also doing edits right now so this post helped me just in time :). Im going to go over some of my chapters now and see if I could use some of these ways to sneak the world into my story before its actually there.

  7. This is where I went wrong with my Nitark story. It was basically a history book. Of something that never existed. :/
    I found that not thinking through the details helps me. Like, I knew that on my island there were many types of martial arts, but there was no guns or anything. And there were longbows, but not crossbows. But then, they did have computer controlled lasers and electromagnetic stuff.
    Thankfully, I didn't go into regional color preferences and the history of the twenty-seven-ish elemental tribes. And yes, I did do that for the Nitark story.

  8. My story world is actually in a real video game called Minecraft. I love that game! I have the PC version. :)