Building a World for a Novel – Part 19
New to this project: Start with Part 1
Part 19: Where do we stand?
The first 18 days of our journey into World Building have brought us pretty far. We’ve looked at stars, and made suggestions about planetary orbits. We’ve considered gravity and touched on atmosphere. We’ve looked at our planet from space as well as up close. We have seen the creation of land masses, seas, lakes and rivers. Most recently we have toyed with the plants and animals that might feed our people–or feed on them. But what we’ve missed are the people themselves.
In the case of most “made worlds” the writer actually starts with the people who will live there already in mind. The writer has an idea of the races that will inhabit the planet, what they look like, how they got there–did they evolve on this new world? Were they dropped off by aliens or Gods? Are they colonists from “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”?
If your people are already formed… if their Cosmology and Creation Stories are in place, waiting to be activated, you may want still want to continue along with me. Consider this a kind of cultural checklist for your new inhabitants.
I wonder how many writers take the time and trouble to create a whole world for their characters? Some most certainly do. J. R. R. Tolkien took components from myths and stories that came before him, and he built on them to create his world of Hobbits and Ring-wraiths, Middle Earth and Arda. Another wonderfully conceived world appears in “A Voyage to Arcturus“, by Scottish writer, David Lindsay–a lesser known book, but a fascinating read.
When we started this journey we questioned the need for world building, and I want to question it again. If you have followed this narrative, and perhaps even begun the slow and complex process of forming a world of your own, you can see it will take time, dedication, imagination, and a full-on sense of purpose.
Suggestion, inference and hints, may serve you for your worldly backdrop. If your story is character-driven, one that could be transported to any place and time, you may not need to draw a world to set it against at all.
But if the world itself is a character… if the creatures, the land, the seas, or the storms play an important part in your tale… if the history of your people, their culture, their fears, their religions, superstitions, poetry and mythology are needed to frame your narrative… Then, carry on, world builder! Carry on.
Continued in Part 20