Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series.
Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
Welcome to week three of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays! I'm so excited about how this is going so far. I love reading about all your story ideas in the comments and seeing your enthusiasm for writing. If you're new to #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, I'm doing a series on how I write a book, one week at a time. And I'm posting my novel over on my author website, one chapter a week. Chapter 1 is up now (click here to read it). The #WeWriteBooks series will end in a BIG contest at the end of August. For information on the contest, see #WeWriteBooks Post 1.
Today's Topic: StoryworldTo recap. Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's mine:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.
Today we are going to talk about storyworld. You all know this is one of my FAVORITE SUBJECTS! I love it so much, I wrote a book about it. Please keep in mind, when I'm writing a new book in a brand new fantasy world, I spent one to three months just creating the storyworld. So to those of you working on fantasy, don't expect to do this all in one day. Take your time, okay? And if you're writing contemporary or historical, you're not off the hook! This post is for you too, so bear with me.
Keep in mind!You only need to create storyworld elements that you need for your plot. If your story is about a girl who works on a unicorn farm, you probably don't need to spend much time brainstorming your government. If you don't want magic in your fantasy story, don't create any! If your story takes place in a castle, government might be a big part of the plot, but you might not have a single fantasy creature in the book. This is all okay.
The IllusionThe thing to remember with creating a fantasy world is that you only need to create the illusion that you've created everything. Pick one or two of the areas below that best fit your plot and spend a lot of time perfecting them. Then mention other things when necessary, and your reader will think you went that deep with everything. It works. Trust me.
Many of the storyworld posts that I used as the backbone of my Storyworld First book are listed below. And for you contemporary or historical authors, there are some archive posts listed for you too. Don't overwhelm yourself. You already know your genre and premise, so only work on things that are related to your story. That will keep you safe from falling head over heels into a bad case of storyworld builder's disease!
Posts for creating your own world (fantasy or science fiction):Creating The World (a good post to start with)
Suspension Of Disbelief
Creating The Civilization
Creating The History
Creating The Government
8 Tips For Creating A Pantheon
Creating The Magic
Types of Magic
Creating The Current Day Conflicts
Worlds Within Our World (for contemporary fantasy authors)
Creating A Historical Timeline
Two Tricks to Integrate Fantasy Elements
How To Keep Track Of It All
Storyworld Builder's Disease (a warning to worlbuilders)
Posts for creating contemporary or historical storyworlds:How To Build A Rich Setting For A Contemporary Story
Researching Your Setting, part one
Researching Your Setting, part two
Worldbuilding For A Historical Novel
How Do I Start Researching For My Historical Novel?
When You Can't Find A Time Machine
Posts For Helping You Choose Or Better Define Your SettingHow To Pick The Right Setting
Coming Up With A Setting That Feels Real
The Storyworld For THIRSTMy story is a little different than most. It starts out in a contemporary setting that quickly devolves into an apocalyptic setting and ends up on the cusp of creating a dystopian society.
Here's how I've done it so far:
Researching My Contemporary Elements
If you've read Chapter 1, you know that I start in the woods in Colorado. As I mentioned last week, my premise deals with the world's water supply going bad. This meant I needed to put my characters in a place where they would be away from the main water source. So I Googled "outdoor survival camps" and stumbled onto one in Colorado. I was able to use pictures from their website and the descriptions of their trips as a model for the setting in my Chapter 1.
The drive at the end of Chapter 1 and into Chapter 2 was a little trickier. I had never been to that part of Colorado/Arizona. So I went on Google Maps and used their street view to drive myself around. This let me see the roadsides, road signs, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, and sometimes the horizon. And when my guys get home to Phoenix and later head back to Flagstaff, I really made use of Google Maps street view. (Click here for a short tutorial on how to do this.) I picked houses for Eli and Riggs, and an apartment for Jaylee. I figured out where the different high schools were. It took time, yes. But it really helped me get into the world my characters lived in.
Researching My Disease
This was the most time-consuming part for me. I really don't like science. And I needed a plausible disease that could quickly wipe out over 90% of earth's population. After hurting my brain trying to Google this, I realized I needed help (because I didn't know what I needed to Google). I asked author Kerry Nietz and a science teacher I knew, and they helped me narrow down my disease. I settled on a waterborne disease that started in a highly populated country and spread from there. It was similar to Cholera, which gave me a disease to mirror as to symptoms and such. I decided that earth had passed through the tail of a comet, which left something deadly in almost all freshwater on the planet. Later, the disease mutates into a bloodborne disease, and that's where the problems really start. Since I'm technically writing science fiction here, I need it to be plausible, to make sense, but it doesn't have to be perfect.
Once I figured all this out, I was able to use Google again. I looked up breakouts of Cholera. I watched news reports on YouTube, which helped me write my own news reports for the book. I looked up Cholera notices, which helped me write the notices for my disease that Eli and friends find posted on the doors of buildings. These things were fun once I got past the science! *grin*
Most of this came out of my imagination. And from talking to several of those guys who like to be prepared for the end of the world. I wanted Reinhold to be one of those survivalist guys, the kind who has six months worth of food stored in his basement, who knows how to make his own bullets, who knows how to hunt, farm, and live off the land. Of the survivors, these were the type of people who were going to thrive in my world. Eli is as close as a city kid can get to one of them. So I talked to my survivalist friends who are into this kind of stuff to help me get it right.
On The Cusp Of The Safe Lands
The Safe Lands is built on the town and ski resort of Crested Butte, Colorado. I spent a lot of time on Google Maps, using the names of streets and such in my dystopian series. So for THIRST, the prequel, I would be getting my guys there and starting what would later become The Safe Lands. This was much easier for THIRST than it was for The Safe Lands itself since in THIRST, it's pretty much the same as it is today. It's a contemporary setting. So I went at it the same way I did Phoenix and Flagstaff. But I also had drawn my futuristic Safe Lands map, so I knew the future boundaries of the land. I knew where my rock star lived, and that's where I want my characters to end up at the end of THIRST.
When a world breaks down, new forms of governments crop up. The very loose government that my teens first discover in THIRST is sort of a tribal anarchy. It's a free-loving, everyone shares-type of attitude. The people in charge are the people who own the land. But when the disease mutates and people start dying, things change. My landowners start making rules, rationing safe drinking water, and people who don't like it can leave. So I spent some time setting up what would later become the controlling government of The Safe Lands.
Another thing I did that was important to my particular series of books was to create a timeline that ran through all of THIRST, then listed the major events of the next eighty years leading up to the book Captives. This really helped me with Captives because I now had eighty years of history. I knew when certain laws started and why. I understood when people began moving underground. Depending on your plot, writing a historical timeline can be a great way of understanding your world.
1. Pick 2 - 4 storyworld elements that you feel are important to your plot. These are things that you'll spend a lot of time inventing and/or researching. Here is a list. And if you have something that's not on my list, use it!
current day conflicts
physical and/or mental abilities
rural life school
ADD ONE THAT'S NOT HERE!
That's a lot to pick from!
For THIRST, I would choose two: 1) Disease and 2) Culture
For some other examples:
-The Fault In Our Stars: disease, medicine, Amsterdam
-Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone: magic, history, boarding school
-Divergent: government, culture, technology
-Pride and Prejudice: rural life in Regency England (history), culture of primarily the upper class, military, country dancing!
-By Darkness Hid: civilization, magic, religions/pantheon
-The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet: school, Hispanic culture, drama
-Angel Eyes: supernatural, small town, crime (trafficking)
2. Work on those items you chose. You could start by looking at the list of blog posts above and see if there is one that relates to your topic. Google the topic. Ask for tips in the comments. If you want to learn about Celtic warriors, it could be that one of us knows some resources we could share with you. If you need to use Google Maps street view, do it. If you need to research, research. If you need to do some interviews, start looking for the right people to help you (and read this post on conducting research interviews).
3. Find ways that these elements can clash with one another. With THIRST, people with different culture and/or values sometimes have different priorities, and when someone tries to tell another person how to live, that makes trouble.
Using my book By Darkness Hid as an example, Achan is a stray, and strays aren't allowed to train as Kingsguards. That's part of my civilization. Also, Achan develops a magic that proves the pantheon is myth. This creates a personal conflict for him and sets up a bigger conflict within the government.
Share your assignment findings in the comments. Or if you're stuck and need help, ask! Let's all help each other.