World Building: A Daunting Task

As I move into my third manuscript (more thoughts on progress tomorrow), world building is on my mind. My characters have moved out of their initial setting, into the world beyond–thus, by default the world is getting bigger and more complex. When I started out writing Capacitance, I, of course, knew much more about the world my characters live in than the reader did (or even than some of the characters themselves knew!). Some people who read my story found this frustrating. I may have spoken about this in a post before, but it is worth mentioning here again; the reactions some readers have to the slow introduction to the world of Mara and Runey. They want to know it all from the beginning–the why, the how, the who… However, inundation is simply overwhelming to the reader. My answer to those readers who wanted answers and specifics and even an entire history of how the world came about is, “Be patient.”

My series is not a hard science fiction or a high fantasy. It is soft science fiction, speculative and a little dystopian. Thus, there are differences between the world of my characters and the world we live in today, but there are also many similarities. This makes it tempting for readers to want to ask how did we get there from here (being the present day). I love the fact that my work and the world the characters live in may bring up these kinds of deep questions. Any SF or Fantasy book whose fictional worlds can cause a reader to question or think deeply about the world they actually live in is, in my opinion, doing a fantastic service to the world of literature. However, how much of the reader’s questions we as authors will answer is a tricky line to tread. How much do we reveal without inundating readers while still satisfying their curiosity?

The answer, for me, lies in a micro to macro approach to the characters and their world. Capacitance starts on the micro level; readers meet the main characters on their campus and don’t know much else at first. As the story progresses, readers learn factors about the larger scheme of things bit by bit. I wanted Capacitance to be mainly about getting to know and connecting to the characters. It isn’t until the end of the novel that the reader really begins to see the true scope of the world. The word ‘capacitance’ means the potential for energy, and the first novel is all about building the spring board that is character development.

Inductance springs the characters off into the world. The second installment was much more about world building. ‘Inductance’ means the flow of energy, and in book 2 the characters are moving out into the world and becoming involved in more action. It was a real struggle for me to make this shift into less character developing and more wold developing. Some of the best world building I did was off the page. Sitting down and taking notes about your world can be a very helpful exercise. Many of these thoughts will never reach the MS page–in fact, many of them shouldn’t–this exercise is more about becoming familiar with your world. That way when you write about it, you have command of your subject. You know things about your world that no one else does. You have secrets, and you’ll keep many of them. The point is to not be didactic in your story. Let the characters make discoveries, let details come out naturally, let nothing be forced.

I am now on the third MS in the series and I am sure that all the questions the more impatient readers had in the first book have still not been answered–maybe they never will be! However, world building remains on my mind as each book goes a little bit deeper into it all. Getting deeper into my world means more serious character development, more new places to be described, more serious themes to face. I’ll leave off on that note as it provides a great segue into what I will be posting about tomorrow. 🙂 Happy Thursday!

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