Putting the “Creep” in Your Story Part III
- 1. The people. Here’s where all that pay-off comes in for studying your fellow
man/woman/child and learning from their habits/reactions/personalities. The first ones you normally start with are your hero or heroine but it’s not unusual for a minor character to spark the firestorm of writing. I.E. A line of dialogue, a scene imprinted on your mind. For me, my people often show up in dreams. It may be one, two, or more back to back or several days a part that pique my curiosity about them. However, I have found myself in the position of sitting down to a picture and basing my story on the person/s in it.
I start with the name. In my world-building of the Akara, I do consult baby names, old and new on various sites but most of the time, either their name just comes to me, or I fool around with different words, sometimes combining the two to come up with a totally unique name such as Mako or Aris. I love different spellings of names I find otherwise. Such as Lora or Cori. Whatever I choose, definitely outfits the character. A Brian can’t take on the personality of an Andrew or a Krey. Each tag represents something about them, suggests strengths and weaknesses, background and family.
I then go through the basics: history, friends, family, education, pets, hobbies, enemies, conflicts etc. In developing these, you round out your person. For instance, let’s take Brian. What nationality is he? Does he care about this? Where is he from? Who have been the influences/great loves of his life? Are his parents living? Married/divorced? Father/mother unknown? Is Mako really his friend, or an enemy he keeps close at hand? Who is that mutt/purebred hanging around his door? Does he have a problem with where he lives? Who he associates with? A split personality? Have fun with these answers. Often they’re just there on paper and only the top skims onto the screen of your book.
One piece of advice. Keep “Bibles” of your people. You never know when you’ll do a sequel and this will keep those characters close at hand.
- Setting. A lot of different things go into this. The history, location, people,
surrounding counties/states etc. Is there a lake? What do your inhabitants look like? Are they human? Is the place real/imaginary? What source of power do they have to run their technology? Do they live in the mountains? By the sea? All questions you must answer to have a firm grasp on who they are, what they’ll be, where they’re going. For instance, in my Akara world, the setting is post-apocalyptic. They are a mountain people, human, and both peaceful and fighters when need be. They are the epitome of the “melting pot.” Having black, Hispanics, white, and Native Americans among them. There are still social classes, to be sure. In most societies there are rich and poor and in-between.
The Echo Mountains are completely made-up, though the state it exists in and some of the places mentioned are not. A little bit of realism goes a long way toward establishing a bridge between the present and the future. Thus its existence in Tennessee notes many actual towns, local interests. Their village is run by wind power thus the huge towers in the village. They enjoy the latest gadgets: computers, cell phones, IPods etc. but they also rely on horseback transportation to get around. Their heritage(Native American based)is very important to them. Leaders range from Elders to the main guy, called the Ado.
Again, a “Bible” of all this helps you keep things straight.
- 3. More to your world. What type of animals do they have? Are they pets? Used for
labor? This could be very important to the make-up of your background. Is there time for companionship? Or is everything centered on survival?
Religions. Do they practice one or more? Who are their gods/God? What are the ground rules for them? Can anyone be a member? Or just a chosen few?
Roles. How are the men/women/children different? Does each share in the work at a certain age? What hierarchy do they follow? Is there a struggle among the different generations/sexes?
Law. How does it play out? Are there judges? Lawyers? Sheriffs? What constitutes a crime? Is it punishable by death, imprisonment, shunning, etc.?
Legends. What are their stories? Do they believe in Evolution? Biblical? Native American? Who were their heroes/heroines? Were they real? Or just stories passed around the campfire?
These are just a few of the things you’ll need to know before you begin writing. You can dig deeper or just start with the necessities. I will say, the better you know your people/setting/culture, the easier it is to get going. There will still be those days when a watershed of ideas about your world will fall. As well as the times, nothing seems to want to work in your favor. Again, with the Bible. When I first started building my world, I skipped this step and even now, have to go back and pour through notes to remember. With everything in one place, it saves time and headaches.
Good luck with your world-building.