If you were God, how would you build the world?


The first world built was the Garden of Eden.
The first world built was the Garden of Eden.

WE WRITE BECAUSE IT GIVES US a chance to play God. We get to decide everything. We build our own worlds for each book. We breathe life into those characters who dwell in our world. We put words into their mouths. And they don’t talk back to us.

Well, when they do talk back, and the characters suddenly take on a life of their own and jump into the middle of a conflict they triggered themselves, we know we really have a good scene going. I just duck and get out of their way.

The characters may suddenly be in control. But, never forget, they wouldn’t exist at all if we hadn’t built their world for them.

Maybe it’s not unlike God himself.

Whether by evolution, by a Big Bang, or by snapping his fingers and wishing it so, or carefully following the plot line in Genesis, He was responsible for the convoluted ball of earth on which we live.

He breathed life into a bunch of characters. He turned us loose. And we do pretty much as we please.

Of course, when I’m tired, worn out, and beat down in the darkness of a black night, I am convinced that God has an eraser just like I have a delete button. We can get rid of our characters any way and any time we want.

Fantasy and science fiction, in particular, can have such a vast and complex world that authors are sometimes compelled to create maps, develop a new language, design different rules for society, establish a distinct and unfamiliar culture, and, in essence, chisel their own ten commandments in stone.

How do you build worlds?

Well, you can research history.

You can research mythology.

You can research magic.

You can research folklore.

You can arrange nuggets from each to fit the puzzle of your own distinctive world. You may prefer to take hard cold facts and transform them in fiction. After all, it’s your world, and you have no boundaries and no limits.

On the printed page, you are God.

The foundation for every genre has its own individual form of world building, whether that world is occupied by an amateur sleuth, a street cop, a hard-boiled vampire detective, a wizard, werewolf, shape shifter, or an isolated astronaut on a lonely planet.

Your characters may be frustrated. In love. Out of love. Afraid. Needing to disappear. Or ready to commit murder.

They are all influenced heavily by the world you build for them. The secret is to hook your readers and bring them into your world as though there is no place they would rather be. A good way is to take full advantage of the five senses.

They should smell the trash from a back alley or the morning glory blooming on a white picket fence.

They should hear hollow, muffled footsteps running down a dark street or the birds singing in a live oak outside the cottage just as morning dawns.

They should taste the salt in the air beside a city dock or a piece of pecan pie piping hot from a bed and breakfast oven.

They should see the flash of gunfire in the night or a young woman riding down a country lane on her bicycle.

They should touch the cold face of a dead man or the silk of a lady’s gown.

The five senses grab your readers and drag them into the scene. The scene becomes the world you’ve built. Trap your readers in that world and don’t let them escape until you’ve placed the final period at the end of the final word of the final sentence in the final paragraph.

Don’t wait for the muse. It may not come. The work gets done by sitting down and laying words on the page. Shut off the internal editor and let your fingers improvise like a jazz musician. Trust yourself to get the work done. After all, you’ve no doubt done it before.”

Only you know where the world exists – on this earth, within the earth, in some netherworld, past, present, future, beyond the stars – and which skeletons are hidden in which closets or where the bodies are buried.

Go for it.

This your chance to become God and build your world exactly the way you’ve always wanted it to be.


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