Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Building By the Seat of Your Pants
I am a pantser-a writer who does little pre-planning, and generally writes off the top of her head. As I have shifted into novel and novella length fantasy and paranormal, creating alternate realities has gotten more complex. I realized it may be a good thing to begin each new world without using my pants, so to speak...
When I start a new world, I try to jot down some basic information to help keep the continuity in my story. It can be on note-cards, or in separate document. Start with the question "How is this alternate reality the same, and how is it different from our world?"
It seems simplest to start with the big issues:
What type of government exists, what kind of laws and enforcement are in place, and what drives the economy? Are there castes or slavery? Is there a monarchy, theocracy, or any kind of 'cracy? Is there an army, or enforcers of the laws that exist? Is there money exchanged, taxes, (thanks Talia), or trade? Is it an economy based on magic power?
Then we step down a level:
How do the residents of this world interact socially? Are there families and friendships? How do they form relationships? (This may be particularly important in a romance novel.) Do they reproduce and raise children? How are people educated? What kind of industry or jobs exist?
Finally we get down to the individual level:
What kind of humans and paranormal or fantasy creatures inhabit your world? What are their powers and skills? What other sexes may exist besides male and female? This section could also include any interesting aspects of intimacy that are different from our own. Are these alternate lifestyle choices accepted?
It can't hurt to do a short description of personal characteristics for your characters, especially the main ones that are not human. You can refer back to these notes as you write so you won't create awkward exceptions along the way. Consistency is a big issue with editors and publishers, and for us pantsers, it can become a real problem.
So when world building; I advise every pantser to let their pants down, metaphorically speaking, and do a little outlining of your strange new world. You can still write that plot straight out of your imagination, but your details will make more sense if you have a basic world-plan to access. There are tons of forms and sites you can google, here are a couple.
The first site is a set of forms you can use, the second has links to a lot of world-building info and exercises.
Hope my fellow pantsers find this useful, but my friends we have to change this name. Do you like Freestylers better?
Chat with you all soon!