When it comes to writing novels in the urban fantasy genre, one of the most exciting and interesting parts is the chance to create my own world for my characters to inhabit. Here I can let my imagination run wild as I make up new rules and break old traditions. It is when you’re designing your world that you get to decide how close your novel’s world will resemble reality. It is here that you decide what is normal. It is when you are building your world that you get to play god.
But don’t let the power go to your head because there are a few tricks to successfully building a working world.
1. The devil is in the details
It may be hard to believe but you need to know more about your world than you will ever appear on the written page. If your world wildly diverges from reality, or is not even set on planet Earth, it is important that you know the history of your people. Have they suffered through many years of war or is their world a peaceful place? Is magic commonplace or is it taboo? Does religion have a major impact on their daily lives? What type(s) of government rule the lands? Are the vampires in the coffin or out of the coffin? While the answers to these questions might not have an impact on the plot of the story, details such as these spread throughout the novel can add more depth to your world. Also, details such as these can give you a deeper understanding of the motivations of your characters. The more details you know about your world, the lusher your description will be.
2. Are you even human?
A major part of worldbuilding is deciding what species and races will inhabit your world. Furthermore, you have to decide the limitations and gifts of each creature that walks, flies, or swims through your world. When I created my vampires, I had to decide which of the dozen or so old myths I would adhere to and which I would throw out. I needed several limitations to balance out all the gifts I was going to give them. For me, one of the key concepts with the vampires was finding balance. If they were going to be fast and strong and nearly immortal, then they also had to be vulnerable to the sun, dependent upon human blood, and completely unconscious when the sun rose.
When I created the naturi, I had to give them a natural enemy or they would too easily dominate the world. So, the bori were born in order to maintain a balance. Another key factor with the naturi was establishing a hierarchy within the various clans. Among the naturi are five clans: light, wind, earth, water, and animal. The light clan is viewed as the cream of the crop because their queen is from the light clan. The next highest is the wind clan because her Consort is of the wind clan. Meanwhile, the lowest of the clans is the animal clan because they are viewed as the foot soldier of the various clans. Knowing this dynamic makes fights scenes easier to design as well as sets up for potential subplot structures as the various clans fight amongst themselves for power and control.
3. Rules, rules, rules
Finally, one of the key things to building a believable world is establishing and abiding by various rules. Just like the real world has basic rules such as gravity and Newton’s laws, as well as laws of morality such as the 10 Commandments, your world needs to have rules in which the people must abide by. That’s not to say that rules aren’t made to be broken, but you have to be very sure that if you break one of your rules that you have a very good reason, which you present to your readers. It is particularly important that you set up a series of rules regarding your magic system. If characters are casting spells willy-nilly without consequences, then it becomes too easy for them to get out of dangerous situations, thereby eliminating any tension from the scene. Forcing your characters to play within the rules of a world not only makes the world more believable, but it also makes the story more interesting.
In order to keep all your worldbuilding straight and your rules in order, be sure to take excellent notes. Some authors fall back on spreadsheets, while others write essays and elaborate case studies. These notes will of great value when you are searching for that bit of history or odd rule that you thought up. It could also assist in your plotting of a book.
Now for the bonus giveaway. Just me a comment below on which has been your favorite Jocelynn Drake novel so far?
Contest ends this Sunday, November 1st, 2009
Only those in the U.S and Canada can participate this time to win this book.