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Five Tips For Successful World Building

So you’ve got a great story, and/or a good cast of characters and you think you might have enough for a book, or at least a good short story. What’s next? It’s time to world build. While I don’t claim to by any kind of an expert on the subject, here are five suggestions for building the sandbox for your character(s) to play in.

Start small

While it might seem counter-intuitive, I have always found that starting in a small section or area of the world and building outward is the way to go. I tend to look at one area of the world as a puzzle piece, and by detailing the first piece I can figure out how it fits into a large picture and slowly build outward. Whenever I have tried to start building from the top down, I always get lost in the details and it becomes a mess.

Make sure your characters fit your world

This might seem like it doesn’t have much to do with world building, but it does. Whether you start with your characters, or build your world first, just make sure you’ve built the right world for them to exist in. If you’re writing a grim medieval novel, having a bunch of happy, hopeful people running around will throw your readers off (unless it’s on purpose or course).

Write more than what goes in your book

When creating a convincing world you should always remember that your readers are only ever going to see a portion of it, and that’s great. One of the best things about discovering a new world in a book as a reader (for me anyway) is the feeling that there’s something else out there, that the world is bigger than the story. With that in mind, I like to adhere to a 60/40 rule. There’s always about 60% of the world still living somewhere else, beyond the pages of the story I’m writing. This is also good as it gives you more details to expand your world in later novels (if you’re writing a series anyway).

Details, details, details

This one is pretty straight forward, but the world is in the details. I will caution you that it’s very easy to drown your reader in too many details about every last corner or facet of the world you’ve built, but not giving them enough is worse. As the author, the world lives in your head, so share that as much as you can with your readers. The more details you can provide, even about innocuous things that aren’t the least bit involved in your plot, the more the reader is going to live in the world with you, and that’s a good thing.

Give it a wrinkle

I think there is a bad tendency of fiction writers to assume that every world they build needs to be as original as possible. While I’m not advocating copying and pasting anything, it’s entirely possible to build a great world without needing to reinvent too many wheels in the process. Just give it a wrinkle. You’ll be surprised how just a few differences make a tired setting feel clever and original. Amazon’s fantasy series Carnival Row is a great example of this. Adding the wrinkle of faeries and supernatural creatures to a very familiar setting gives it a whole new feel. You don’t always have to build a whole new world, just give it enough wrinkles to make it yours.

Summer Updates

Just wanted to post a few updates, since it’s been a while.

Sent the book to the formatting company yesterday, so everything is on track for hitting that September first deadline. I’ve been spending the last month or so working on final revisions/ tweaks to the book, but I can finally say… it’s done. Should be able to post more regular updates from now on since book 1 is done, just waiting to be formatted and uploaded.

I’m also happy to post that I just finished the plot outline for the second half of book 2 so that is coming along nicely. I’ll be focusing on publishing and promoting my debut novel for the foreseeable future, so I wouldn’t expect too many updates about book 2 anytime soon, but please know that it is coming along, slowly but surely.

That’s all for now.

Building Aquillon, Part 2

Who is Alex Winters?

Alex Winters was a work in progress from the earliest days of starting the novel, to the last day of editing. I’d love to tell you that I always knew who she was right away, and she never changed from the start, but that’s just not the case.

That’s not to say that I didn’t know anything. As I said in my last post of this series, Alex was always blonde. And from the second I wrote the sentence, she was always from Boston, and always a Red Sox fan. Beyond that, she just developed as I wrote the book.

By the end of the first few chapters I was starting to have a better idea of who Alex was, and what kind of person she was. I knew she didn’t take any nonsense from anybody, and she was independent and liked it that way. Part of the struggle I think for Alex, as she explores Aquillon, was just shedding herself of that loner mentality, and accepting help from wherever it came. Aquillon’s a dangerous place after all.

One of my favorite things about writing the book was discovering Alex’s internal voice, and really getting inside her head-space as I wrote. As the chapters flew by, she had a stronger and stronger voice, until by the end of the novel, I knew exactly who she was, and her place in Aquillon, which is basically when it happens for her too, so I guess you could say we came to the conclusion together.

I hope you enjoy Alex’s journey as much as I did. In the next entry in this series, we’ll explore Alex’s supporting cast of characters. Until then!

Building Aquillon: Part 1

A World Build In Dreams

Aquillon was born in dreams. I distinctly remember waking up one night from a particularly vivid dream, the details fresh in my mind. This wasn’t the first time this had happened, but something about this dream was different. It was more real, more visceral than others before it so I ran straight to my computer and started writing. An hour later, the five page primer that would eventually become Aquillon was sitting in front of me.

It took a couple of days before I could work on it again, but I knew I had something good. It was a world that fascinated me and I wanted to know more about it, so as I looked at the details I had, I started to ask myself questions. Where does this person live? How did this part of the world get its name? Why does this region look like this? After several days of asking myself these questions I had what resembled a breathing world, and a functioning mythos.

From concept to finishing the first novel, many things changed. Concepts were thrown out, names were altered, and plenty of details were re-written. Three things never changed from my dream though.

The name Aquillon. That was the place’s name, and I knew that from the start. The lion was always there as well. Menacing and fierce, with piercing red eyes, he was always there, waiting for someone to challenge him. Then there was the girl. I didn’t know her name at first, but she was always there, standing tall against the darkness, blonde hair flying in the wind. Those were the details I had to start with, and from that, the story slowly began to take shape.

To be continued…