Monday, February 6, 2012

World Building Blog (Guest posted by Stephen B Pearl

 Hello everyone. This is the next Guest post. This one is done by Stephen B. Pearl. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Till Next Time!

World Building
    Hi everybody, I’m Stephen B. Pearl and I’ve been invited to bend your eyeballs for a few moments. This is a writing blog, so I suppose I should list my published works. These are:

Nukekubi: Available March 1, 2012: A paranormal, detective novel, ISBN 978-0-9867633-6-6 - eISBN. 978-0-9867633-7-3 Available in paperback and e-book formats from Dark Dragon Publishing:
Tinker’s Plague: A post-apocalyptic, science fiction, medical and political thriller, ISBN 978-1-933157-30-6 Available in paperback and e-book formats from Draumr Publishing:
Slaves of Love: e-book: A futuristic detective story of love and madness.
The Hollow Curse: e-book: A centuries spanning tale of love and obsession
Available from Club Lighthouse Publishing:

 PWP Sabbath Anthologies: Contributing author: Collections of stories, pomes and articles focusing on the Pagan Sabbaths as they are celebrated throughout the year. Available in paperback and e-book formats from the Pagan Writers’ Press:

    Well with the pedigree somewhat established I’ll move onto the body of this piece. I’ve been given an extremely long rope so the opportunity to hang myself if pre-eminent. Kidding aside, I’d like to talk about world building and how it relates to writing fiction in general. I’ll be specifically discussing my process for world building as it is illustrated by my published works. Let’s look at the needs I have to fulfill as a world builder.

    First, my world / universe must be a place that the action I want to play out can logically occur. This seems obvious but it is all too easy to try to place a story in a world that really doesn’t support it.
 Taking Tinker’s Plague as an example, this story cannot be told in anything but a post-apoplectic world. I require a world where high technology exists but is only available to the few. There must be a smattering of failed technology, and limited resources for dealing with a plague. This made the quarantine hard to enforce and set up the situation that led to my central conflict.
So the world must fit with the story told within it. If I tried to tell the story of Tinker’s Plague in let’s say the present day, logic flaws would occur such as why wouldn’t the CDC descend on mass. Where are the news crews making everything public? Why don’t they mobilise the military to keep order? So the shortages of a post-apocalyptic world were vital to my telling of the story. One obvious thing that being in a post-apocalyptic world allowed for was the isolation of my protagonists which really ups the dramatic tension.

Internal Consistency
The world must be internally consistent.
In Slaves of Love, I have a high tech urban society set about a hundred years from now. This has several implications, for one the cities have largely been converted into “Towers”. These structures reach kilometres into the air. The suburbs, or low towns, form what can be called the wrong side of the tracks.  To make the Towers I had to advance materials technology, thus poly-carbonates, super-strong, log chains of carbon molecules, are used for many things we use steel for today. This also means that space launch technology has advanced with super-light, super-strong, space shuttles. It is a hundred years in the future so gasoline is a bad memory, instead people drive electric cars. Using electric cars meant that I had to have recharge stations reminiscent of parking meters at each parking space because of the poor mass to power storage ratio of batteries when compared to chemical fuels. The pressure differential between the bottom and the top of a kilometres high Towers will result in hurricane force winds. It makes sense to harness these to supply power. This is but one consequence of people living in these towers that has to be examined to keep the book’s internal logic. The answers to these problems echo out into the world in general.
The idea is to look at the elements you put into the world and think of how they would affect that world, not just in the ways that are convenient to your story. This will make your world seem real and may even present you with some interesting elements to use in the book that you hadn’t thought of before.
Character Impact
The people in the world must reflect their world. No one lives in a vacuum. We are all affected by the society we live in, the things we grew up with and the things we deal with everyday.
 In Nukekubi, my paranormal detective story, I have a structured, urban society, ours, where rationalism has largely eroded a belief in magic. This results in Ray, my wizard, having to have a day job. The business of people not believing in magic forces the practitioners of magic to be circumspect about things. Imagine going into your boss and saying, “I need a few days off so I can hunt a Japanese goblin that is scaring people to death.” Getting canned might be the least of your troubles. The logic of a world, where magic is only slightly more demonstrative than ours, is that mystics are as closeted as they are in our own world. Keeping this kind of secret influences a character. An other aspect is there are simply things your characters can’t talk to people at large about. This will create friction in interpersonal relationships. The sense of being an outsider looking in is likely to make the character a little judgmental when looking at the rest of society. Another aspect of this is if your character has a way they could strike out at people, and not risk retaliation, what does it say about their moral nature that they don’t?
    What you need to do is think about how things have influenced you and extrapolate how the elements of your world will influence your character. Will they rebel, conform, not care? The world your characters live in is as much a part of them as their hands and feet, so be careful how you sculpt it.

    My final point is to remember there are many worlds in your world.
    In The Hollow Curse, my two leads experience a series of past lives. Okay, to make the story work my characters need to believe in reincarnation. They also should be people pre-inclined to recalling past lives so I made than practicing Druids.
Some of you are probably scratching your heads and saying what’s a Druid, others are thinking, “weren’t they killed off?” The answers are that they are the Priests of the Ancient Celtic Religion, and there are still several Druidic churches and societies in operation today. This is the point though, they are a world within our world that many people have no contact with. Have the modern Druids been affected by the modern world? Definitely, who’s going to pass up indoor plumbing? Do they form a world within the world with its own unique influences that will affect the characters? Definitely. You have to look at the sub worlds that your character moves through and how they influence them.
 A character may move between several sub worlds in a book. In The Hollow Curse, Alysia is part of the worlds of a university graduate student, a Druid or Dryad, a term some use for a Druidic Priestess, a jogger, and a budding police consultant. All of these sub worlds will influence her although she may be their only crossover point, and she may keep them all very distinct.
Another great source of conflict is to have a person slip and apply the norms of one sub-world they live in to another sub-world that they live in. If you want to see the result of this just look at a high school kid who is into science and sports. If he slips up and describes the flight of a base ball referencing the laws of physics how well is he received by the other jocks? It can range from good natured teasing to down right hatred and ostracism.
So at another level of world building you must be aware of the sub-worlds that inhabit your story and allow the pertinent ones to leek in and influence your character. No one completely turns themselves on and off when they move between these sub-worlds and conflicts between the various worlds your character inhabits can add spice to the book or even be the central theme of the book.

The idea of all this is that world building should be as important as character and plot to your story. In a sense, your world should be a major character present in every scene affecting every action, influencing, but never overshadowing, the other aspects of the story.

    Thank you very much for reading, and I would like to thank Kerry for giving me this chance to pontificate.

    If you want more information about Stephen B. Pearl or my books you can also visit:

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  2. Sorry it took me years to say this but thanks for commenting.