The Art of World Building | The Art of Writing
Michael Miller | The Children’s Book Review | April 8, 2017
5 Novel Writing Tips for Making Every Place and Scene Unique
- The world is a character. It may not have motivations, but it will have its own arc of history, and most notably, a relationship with your true characters. Your characters are shaped in innumerable ways by their world. It will pull on them like a tide in the background—or at least it should. It’s unlikely to do so until you see your universe as a character unto itself, and start figuring out what its relationship to everyone is.
- The nature of your relationships will be impacted by environment. We all talk about the weather, don’t we? The elements we enjoy or contend with shape our everyday interactions. In big ways, sure, but more importantly in so many little ways. I’m sick of shoveling the snow by day four, and our hero might be tired of day 54 of the singing trees hitting their autumn crescendo. But environment is more than just the weather. It will also dictate clothing, architecture, trade—you name it. And if it’s in space, well, zero g and brutal temperatures are all at play as well.
- Now we spin it out. If people have had a relationship with a particular environment for so long, what has that meant? What was it like a few hundred years ago, or when people first showed up, or in living memory? When AdriAnne and I were writing SHADOW RUN, one of the first things we did was write a summary of the history of the universe leading up to where it was now.
- Armed with this, you can start the fun stuff. We took our summary and started to write down the main arenas of our story, sketching out each of the major settings. Start asking questions about your history and how it’s developed in the environment you have created for it. What has that done to everyone living there? What kind of choices have people made about their clothing, their architecture, their government? And don’t shy away from serious, larger concepts. Things like politics and religion are touchy subjects, but they impact us in tremendous ways every day; your fictional characters are no different. This doesn’t mean you’ll be discussing these subjects in depth in your story, but every character you spend time with will have strong opinions on and experiences with these things. Being informed on some of them will add nuances and color to places and interactions.
- Which brings my last rule: every place, every scene, should have something in your head that makes it unique. It should never just be “a market” or “a hot planet” or “a palace,” because generic places don’t exist in the real world. Every spot you’ve ever been to or heard of has more history than you can imagine. The most boring warehouse in Akron, Ohio, has had drama and politics play out around it. Places like palaces are teeming with weird facts about their architecture and history and could have their own documentaries about all of it. Believe it, and enjoy it. You don’t have to cover it in your story, but as you write, tiny bits will seep in, and before you know it, the world will be alive.
Written by AdriAnne Strickland and Michael Miller
Publisher’s Synopsis: Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.
Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.
As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.
But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.
Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Delacorte Press | March 21, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399552533
About the Authors
ADRIANNE STRICKLAND AND MICHAEL MILLER met in their hometown of Palmer, Alaska, where they agreed on books 99% of the time, and thus decided to write together. Michael grew up off the grid in a homestead in Alaska and ironically now works very much on the grid in IT and Web development. AdriAnne grew up in Nevada and now spends her summers as a commercial fisherwoman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and the rest of her year writing. This is their first book together. You can find them on Twitter at @AdriAnneMS and @begemotike.
The article The Art of World Building was written by Michael Miller, co-author of Shadow Run. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Art Of Writing, Autism, Cammie McGovern, and Dogs.