May 13, 2008

Thoughts on World Building

Something occurred to me the other day as I sat musing over what I’d write this week. The process of world building is a lot like pregnancy.

Now wait a minute before you go running for the hills. Yes, male readers, I’m talking to you. I’m not going to say anything gross. I promise.

Like all forms of art, sci-fi and fantasy literature, movies, and television shows begin as an idea, minuscule and delicate. The author oscillates between moments of manic research, quiet reflection, and at times days or weeks where the awareness of its presence, its potential, is nearly forgotten in the press of day to day concerns. Yet it grows: gaining form and purpose, developing systems, and gathering strength until the idea is finally able to make itself known.

Those first nudges are subtle and easily missed or forgotten by a distracted author, but they quickly become more definite and insistent. The author begins putting words to paper, taking care to ensure all needed elements are available and eliminated unwanted materials from the diet. Research intensifies. Preparations are considered, and growth accelerates. Soon the idea is only recognizable as the same tiny spark it was before in its most basic elements.

The first set of revisions and rewrites begin, and the idea, already almost fully formed, matures and gains weight. It occupies the author’s thoughts more now than ever, and the nudges, once so gentle, can be surprisingly strong even painful at times. Arrival is within sight, and the author increases their efforts to prepare.

Soon time for final edits arrives, the shortest and most painful phase for most. All is ready. All remaining is the final push and cleansing before the author holds their world, newly born and perfect in their hands.
Then the hard part begins.


  1. World building is probably one of my favorite pastimes. It comes from all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons.

    Dungeon Masters tend to be world-building dictators with a god complex, and I'm no exception.

  2. You know, I never got around to playing any RPGs, which is ironic considering Hubby and I have been working on developing the alternate world for one. We just have no clue about the game mechanics. I might have to shoot you a few questions when we get to the actual stat set up and play rules if you wouldn't mind.

    I love the process as well, probably a little too much judging by the massive notebooks I have with notes on the three I've created thus far.

  3. This post felt like something you could build into a big series. Have you thought of stretching it out like that? With all those massive notebooks of yours, I'll bet you'd have no trouble.

    I love the opening, tying it into pregnancy. I doubt it would scare male readers away.

  4. LOL, well the general comment to male readers was actually written with a few particular guys in mind who tend to be, I guess you'd say twitchy, around a pregnant woman or a lady talking about pregnancy.

    You know I haven't done a series in forever it seems. I'll have to think about it and see what I can work out.