Builder of Worlds - 10/24/19
Updated: Oct 28, 2019
In the realm of writing, there is one thing (other than characters) that takes precedence over all things ... and that is ... YOUR WORLD.
Yes. Your world. The setting. The stage. It's the place that your beloved characters are going to be interacting upon. Their very existence depends on the development of such a world.
For what else is there if not a place for the drama to play out? In Ancient Greece, while the Romans were busy with watching Gladiators slay beasts and one another upon the sands, the Greeks were writing plays and acting them out. So shall it be for you, my friends!
Pay heed, for I shall show you what it means to create a world. Never fear, it is not so daunting a task as you may think. All you have to do is remember that if it is in a fictional world, you are the creator. You are the one who sets the laws. You lay the groundwork for all of your fiction to take place.
However .... and yes, there is always a 'however' ... it's like a 'but' ...
Said world has to be believable for what it is. You can't go against the laws of reason, unless that is your goal. What do I mean by that? Well, it's really very simple. We'll use Blackridge as an example. Blackridge is a fictional port city on the northern coast of Oregon that I modeled after Monaco. It's where the Blackridge Saga is based. Sure, the characters travel all over the world, but ultimately, they come home to Blackridge.
Now, Blackridge is not unreasonable. Oregon doesn't have a massive metropolitan area resembling Monaco like Blackridge on the northern coast, but writing it creates it. It's believable. It's where Morgan lives. Yes, she has a custom designed house back in the hills away from the city, but it's there. All she has to do is hop in her car and drive down into the city to the DanyCrom building and she can ride the elevator up to see Walter Davenhurst in his office at the top floor.
Building worlds is very easy, if you know what you want. All you have to do is imagine the reality in which your characters want to live. Let's take The Double Club for example, because it uses a real city ... Sarasota, Florida.
I don't get specific when I write for the Double Club there. All I have to do is describe where the characters are and the rest attends to itself. I remember when I was younger, I worked a job that had its company headquarters in Sarasota. I drove there with others in my job and when I got there, I saw how beautiful it was. It always stuck with me and so I put the Double Club there because I thought Sarasota was pretty. It's as simple as that.
What about you? Where would you like to have your fictional setting? All you have to do is imagine it and the blank Word document is your canvas. Just remember ... you have to be reasonable when you create your world. It has to conform to the reality in which you are placing your characters. Blackridge is a metropolitan area with a dangerous waterfront, back roads through land thick with trees and beauty, and many corporate buildings in the downtown area. Sarasota is a city already established in this day and age. It exists and people familiar with it will know what is there. Oh sure, you can fudge a little. Why not? You can make it how you want it to be, but just don't go crazy, unless that is specifically what you want.
You can do that, you just have to make sure you communicate that to your readers. You have to make sure that you are taking an existing city and transforming it into the idea of what you want your fictional setting to be. As long as you do that, you're all right. You can't just assume that is what people are going to accept, because they're not. They are going to read your narrative and say to themselves ... "Wait a minute, that's not how it is!"
We don't want that. No, no. You need to create the fiction. If you do that, your readers will accept it because you are telling them. Don't just take for granted that they will accept it because you say so. No. Don't do that. Explain it. Use your prose to set the stage, because in doing so, THAT will generate the feeling for the area that you want your readers to accept. Otherwise, they are going to base their judgement on the existent facts. Blackridge is not real, but I created it as a fictional setting and as long as they know that, people will accept it.
If I just say Blackridge, Oregon ... people are like ... what? huh? Blackridge, Oregon? There's no such place! Da hell are you talking about? Where is Blackridge? Is it on the coast? Is it a central location? Is it on the eastern side of the state? WHERE IS IT?
When I describe Blackridge as a metropolitan port city located on the northern Oregon coast, people know immediately where it is. They now know that it is a fictional location for the story. That's fine. They're okay with that because you have told them. If I say that Jagger Hollis from The Double Club is moving away from Essex, Vermont for a seaside apartment in Sarasota, Florida, that is also very easily understood. He's moving down from New England to a warmer, different location in the Sunshine State.
The same rules apply to fantasy settings. If you are creating your own worlds, then make sure you describe what type of world it is. Take a paragraph or two, condense it, and set the stage for your story. All you have to do is set it up at the beginning and people will know enough to run with it. Readers are very smart. They have probably read a lot of books before. They know how to mentally set the stage.
I purposely leave some details vague because I want to give my readers the freedom to customize my writing to suit them. I will go into that a lot more later on in another post, but for now, as it pertains to this one, make sure you generate the world in which your characters are living. If you have a setting in New York, then you need to at least give an understanding of where they are in New York. Are they in that city throng with all the people and the taxis coming and going? Or are they upstate in the more wooded areas?
Creating the world in which your characters live is vital. It is everything. Your characters can't exist unless you put them in a setting. Doesn't matter where it is, you have to have a setting for them because people will need to visualize them there so they can picture it in their minds.
It's really no different than watching a movie or a play. There are characters and they are in a setting. Create that setting. Take a few extra lines of the narrative and make sure you have set the stage for your drama/romance/action to commence.
You are the same as playwrights of Ancient Greece. Thousands of years ago, they were setting the stage for their dramas. There is nothing different these days, my friends. We are doing the same thing they were doing back in the BC years. The only difference I can think of is that we are doing it on computers and they were writing with reed pens on papyrus.
Either way, it is the same as it has always been since antiquity.
Just think about that for a while ... and enjoy it.