A World to Call Your Own

Tuesday, February 12, 2008
"I will maintain that the artist needs only this: a special world of which he alone has the key."
André Gide
World building has long been a part of science fiction and fantasy writing. Creating a consistent and believable world is absolutely necessary to having readers accept the setting of a story. There are entire books and seminar sessions on this topic. Not only is it important, but it's often downright fun to do in its own right. The process of writing then becomes sharing the wonders of your world with your readers. (This can, of course, be done to excess. I'll refrain from suggesting specific authors here, but I'll bet that you can create a personal list of your own.)

In talking with other writers, one of the common experiences is getting caught up in one's own world. Even if the story takes place in the present, with established locations, there is a whole other universe encapsulated in the viewpoints and actions of your own characters. When the muse has a particularly firm hold, many of us find that we merely become the reporter at the scene, chronicling the events as they happen.

It's a particularly heady sensation, in many ways far superior to getting lost in a really good book or movie. Unlike those examples, these characters come from our own mind—even if they demonstrate volition of their own. The world they live in is one of our own creation, no matter how familiar the surroundings.

People who are not writers do not fully understand. And they often wonder why we snarl and snap when forced back into the "real world" around us. To quote from Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, "There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized." While I'm not certain that the sentiment is entirely true, it is a warning to other well worth considering.