Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wordcraft – Jaye Wells on building a world all your own

For the past several years I’ve treated myself to the weekend writing workshop at Dallas-area FenCon’s science fiction/fantasyconvention. We’ve had some amazing workshop instructors: Mike Resnick (note to Mr. Resnick: after a few revisions, that crazy dragon story of mine you read actually sold – twice!), Karl Schroeder, Lou Anders of Pyre, Patrick and Teresa Hayden Nielsen of Tor, Carrie Vaughn and more. But this year was the first with a local North Texas writer as our instructor. The honor goes to Jaye Wells, author of the Prospero's World paranormal series, the Sabina Kane series, novellas, short stories, and writing as Kate Eden, the Murdoch Vampire series. Writing that many stories requires a lot of worlds, and Wells shared her “down and dirty” tips on building the worlds of our stories with workshop participants.

World building, she told us, isn’t a requirement limited to science fiction or fantasy stories. All genres require it, although not all will admit it. So what exactly is “world building”? It’s “about creating a sandbox for your characters, including such things as the world’s physical characteristics, culture, history, religions – “everything that affects your character.”

More than “a set design, with an actor standing in front of it, it has to be in the round. . . If it interests you, fascinates you, your world cannot help but be interesting.”

World building has macro and micro levels. At the macro level, Wells makes big decisions, “setting up the rules for the world. The rules you set up have to drive your story. Otherwise, why set it there?” At the micro level, she decides on “the specific details (that) make your story feel real, that people can picture.”

With macro and micro dimensions in mind, here are her Five P’s of World Building:

-- People (gender, age, race, background, profession?)
-- Places (city/town/village/planet? Geography?)
-- Problems (What’s the problem facing this person or people in this place?)
-- Practices (cultural items, civic life, education, etc.)
-- Peculiarities (“the unique details that give your world color and texture”)

All five P’s are required for the sixth P: Plot! (the actual details of your story).

To spark her imagination, Wells is fond of collaging (see http://pinterest.com/jayewells/). Still stuck? Try this list of links and resources for filling in the details and, as she said, “nurturing your god complex”:

-- Fantasy World Building Questions by Patricia C. Wrede, www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuildingquestions/

-- Character names, www.lowchensaustralia.com/names.htm (originally for pet names, but don’t be alarmed!)

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