No Flash Fiction this week, as Chuck Wendig is busy putting us through our paces in a monthly worldbuilding exercise. I love building new worlds – I even plan on teaching a class about it – but I find myself wondering about the foundations we build those worlds upon, because I’m at a point where I’m asking myself about what and why I’m writing.
Entire books can and have been written on the foundations of worlds like Middle-Earth, Narnia, the universe of Star Trek and so on. But I’m willing to wager none of these worlds sprang fully-formed from the minds of their creators. Rather, there was purpose in mind. Tolkien was seeking hope in the face of intimidating enemies. Lewis wanted to tell new parables. Gene Roddenberry had a desire to preach tolerance and utopia.
Turning my thoughts inward, I’m creating Acradea as the means to examine the growth of a young man of privilege when those privileges are taken away from him, rather than the usual formula of a young adult protagonist rising from obscurity to become some sort of chosen one. I’m envisioning a bleak future Earth in Cold Iron to show a mature, delicate and very tenuous balance in a battle between forces of stasis and change. I toss old myths with recent genres to show that while some stories may be old, they still have something to tell us.
Note that I’m making these statements after at least the first draft is written for each of the works described. Asking me about the foundations of the worlds I create as I’m creating them might have gotten you a rambling, unfocused answer dancing around the point, or worse, a shrug of the shoulders and a mutter “Heck, I dunno, I just work here.”
That won’t and shouldn’t be the case for everybody, though. Maybe you have a solid idea of how you want your world to grow and what it’ll be rooted in, but are unsure of how to proceed up from that foundation. Or, perhaps you have a vague idea of where to begin and how your story will end, but the stuff in the middle is what’s fuzzy. We all approach our craft in different ways, and while our paths may spiral off into disparate directions, there’s one question every writer can, does and should ask, at least once, be it at the beginning, middle or end of the process.
“Okay. I’ve got my foundation/outline/characters/big climactic battle with guns and doves and whatnot. Now what?”
The answer may simply be “write more”. It could also be “stop writing and read.” And on occasion, it’s “break out the booze.”
Where do you find yourself asking these questions? How do you tend to proceed?