Sageless Advice: In the Beginning...The Big Picture
I have to tell you that if I were God and I was inventing a world, I probably wouldn’t approach it the way the Almighty did. Granted, it was a fantabulous job. Light and dark–check. Separating the waters above from the waters below–double check. Dividing the world between land and sea–done. Setting up the heavens–oh, yeah. And then comes the truly cool water creatures before finally moving on to all the land-based critters and a well-earned rest. But that organizational structure doesn’t quite work for me.
Some authors and writing instructors, like brilliant fantasy author/instructor and mentor, David Farland, encourage new writers to focus on world-building. It’s sort of like taking a page out of the Master Creator’s play book. I think this is sensible, particularly if you’re writing about another world or setting your story someplace you’ve never been. But even though I’ve tried, my brain simply isn’t wired that way.
What always, always, always comes to me first is the spark of an idea. Some twinkling of the end game so you’re not creating a desert Dune-type world if you’re planning on a contemporary romance. Or a space opera if you’re thinking historical fiction. I mean, why go all Hoth if you’re thinking urban murder mystery? [Star Wars alert! Hoth = Ice Planet, for the Geekless among us.]
Personally, I like to start things off with a Bang. You know… The Big Bang. The Idea. Of course, once I get my Big Bang ignited, who’s going to be around to appreciate it? Some sweet characters, that’s who. And once I have a few characters rattling around, they’re going to demand food and clothing and a place to hang, so maybe I better figure out where they are. And then they’re going to want to know what the hell they’re doing there. What’s their purpose in life? Where are they going? What is their function, other than hang around in my imaginary world? All good questions. All need answers…in time.
That’s why my Creation goes like this. Ehm. On the First Day, Day thought, “Whoa! Big Bang incoming! [Idea explodes into existence] Wouldn’t it be cool if this dragon didn’t know he was a dragon and meets this fairy who doesn’t know she’s a fairy?” Okay, great First Day. High five self. All that banging totally wore me out. [Yeah, maybe I should have rephrased that.] Let’s pack it in.
Day dawns anew and now it’s time to think about Dragon Dude and Fairy Chick and wonder… What, exactly, is their deal? Who are they? What do they want? Why can’t they have it? Who are their friends, countrymen, and enemies? Hey, what if the dragons and fairies, like, hate each other? What if Dragon Dude and Fairy Chick are forced to marry? What if…?!? Okay, I’m wiped. Time to pack it in for the day.
Day 3 and it’s time to take a look around and figure out… Where the hell am I, anyway? Do these creations even believe in hell? Do they believe in heaven? Why does this place have dragons and fairies? What history has caused the fairies and dragons to hate each other? Why do these two characters, in particular, need to marry? Could it be two old enemies uniting to save their world from an even greater enemy? Okay, but who? What do the invaders want with this world? How can the marriage between Dragon Dude and Fairy Chick affect this imminent threat? Why does my brain feel like it’s about to explode?
Fourth Day arrives and it seems like the perfect time to tweak this lovely, new world. There’s more people to create, more world to build, a history to unravel, and events to set in motion. In other words, playtime! Oh, yeah, and while I’m tinkering with my lovely creations, let’s get the light and dark separated, straighten out the heavens and the atmosphere, and toss some interesting denizens of the deep into the salty morass. Then I’ll follow that up with creating some decent land formations and even more interesting land dwellers. [FYI, I’ve been hanging around Fourth Day for a while now.]
On the Fifth Day, I start pulling things together. I need to meld world with character with story. I need a map…of everything. Who, what, when, where, why? This is when I braid all of the elements of the story–of this series–into a cogent, logical, appealing braid, with lots of twists and turns and, if I’m lucky, unexpected beauty.
The Sixth Day dawns and it’s time to write. And write and write and write some more. It’s time to try and take the idea and give it form and structure in a written form, which is so much harder than it sounds because so often the creation in my head doesn’t always translate the way I’d hoped into mere words. It’s the difference between the visual and the written–and it’s all the difference in the world. All of the ingredients are combined and the resulting meal is tasted. Either it’s the most amazing thing ever… Or it’s a total disaster. Or something sadly in between. This is where you pray for the miraculous to occur. For all the elements you’ve agonized over for–not days, but months or years–go from ideas to words. Some days are amazing and the words pour out. Some days are torturous and the words are plucked like shards of glass from an open wound. Doesn’t matter. You just keep writing.
Day Seven arrives and since I’m not God, I don’t get to rest. Now I take what I’ve written, and I rewrite it, word by word by excruciating word, attempting to make my world as perfect as possible. It will never quite live up to the image I created, but I struggle to get it as close as possible. I succeed or fail. But eventually my creation finally and fully comes to life. Editing magic happens, followed by more rewrites. By the time night falls, the book is done and ready to upload to the world of all things digital for readers to buy and assess. Either readers will love it or hate it. But those who hate it don’t have to stay. Those who love it will want more and that’s when Day One dawns anew.
And that’s how I create my worlds. And every time I create a new one, it gives me a greater appreciation for this amazing world I live in and all the astounding creations which fill it. Next week, I’ll look more closely at the Big Bang. Stay tuned!
Look for Day’s paranormal romance series, Once Upon a Blue Moon, coming in 2014–assuming she ever gets to Day Seven–in which a dragon dude, who doesn’t know he’s a dragon, meets a fairy chick, who doesn’t know she’s a fairy, but are forced to marry in order to save their world from some serious badass invaders.