I’m very excited to host the next stop on the Become Blog Tour! In Become, the debut novel by Jillian Watts (Split Tree Publishing), Abbie Thomas finds herself at the mercy of a human-like race known as the olichon and learns that she can never return home. For this blog-tour stop, I asked Jillian to write a guest post about building a believable fantasy world. Read on for Jillian’s three top tips for world-building.
Alrighty. When I sat down to write what would eventually turn into Become, I was completely overwhelmed by my creative choices. I went on a typing rampage and wrote about giant trees, shape-shifters, and fields of silvery purple grasses, all of this in what I will tentatively refer to as my “portal fantasy phase.” There was also a magical ring in there, capable of making the alpha males of my world behave like idiots. There were reasons for this idiocy, most of which I went to great lengths to describe during one of Abbie’s many “sitting sessions.” Literally, this meant that Abbie would sit somewhere with a member of the olichon race and ask a lot of questions. In the literary world, this method is referred to as an info dump.
Needless to say, this was an incredibly boring way to build a new and exciting world.
I felt as though I were molding the world to the characters instead of the other way around. The characters were super silly, and disingenuous as a result.
So. I ended up rewriting the manuscript three times over the course of four years before I was completely happy with the world that I wanted to create. These are some of the lessons that I learned:
1) Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Just because someone has done something before you, doesn’t mean that you can’t create something fairly original out of the basic idea/trope. Also: love your own creations; try not to compare your characters to someone else’s. They are yours. No one else will ever be able to create that specific character again.
2) Make your characters play by the rules of the world, not the other way around.
I learned this the hard way. While I tried to uphold my silliness by finding ways around the rules, I should have been enforcing them. Asking questions of “how would this rule make so-and-so think?” and “how does this rule make this plot point play out?” were very helpful.
3) Try to have as much of your world figured out as possible before you write.
Holding character interviews is a great way to find out information about them without having to include lengthy amounts of exposition. Things will still pop up and surprise you as you go through, but it’s a good idea to keep your excitement in check, or else—BAM! Info dumps.
In the end, I found a happy medium. To reduce Abbie’s sitting sessions, I allowed her version of the human world to know about the olichon in advance. Because of this, Abbie was able to tell the reader some things as they went along on her journey instead of just learning it all firsthand. She was able to react to her new world with curiosity instead of just fear. Abbie has ended up being far more capable—and believable—than her earlier incarnation, and that’s the kind of protagonist I can appreciate.
Author Bio: Jillian Watts is originally from Winnipeg, MB, but has since made Thunder Bay, ON, the place where she prefers to eat hot turkey sandwiches. She likes to do many things, but writing is her passion. She writes about all sorts of odd topics, which may explain why a tale about confused magical girls has woven its way into her portfolio. When she is not busily typing out her next story, Jillian supports a whole host of clichéd hobbies. Several examples would be: seeing movies, hiking, hop-scotch, deep sea diving, spelunking, ninja lessons, and sparkle hunting. Mostly, though, she sticks to the hiking, drawing, gaming, mothering, cat box changing, and wifely aspects of life. Oh, and sometimes seeing a movie too, but never deep sea diving (oceans are scary!).
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