(This is the second post in a series I started last week. You can read the first post here.)
So you have your map.
Creativity, being what it is, is quite a crazy, messy thing. There are three other points that I will address: Wildlife, History, and People (I might do more, but these are the three I have planned so far). All three of these seem to happen in a jumble during the creation process. After much indecision, however, I think I will address History next.
Part #2: The History
History. Why is it important?
These next two posts will help shape the last one (which is on people) so keep that in mind. History is important because it shapes who your people are as the story is taking place. Your book could start after a long war between two countries that our now at an uneasy alliance. Maybe your main character’s great great grandfather was the king who the people rebelled against, and he is still suffering for his ancestor’s actions.
Whatever it is, the history of your world will likely influence the ‘now’ of your world. So it’s important to figure out the crucial details of how your world came to be, and what all has happened since that time.
Step #1: The Origin Story
How was your world created? How was it born? Can you get to it from Earth? Or is it in an alternate universe, where Earth doesn’t even exist?
I always like to know how my story world exists in relation to Earth. Earth just needs to fit somewhere in my mind. It bothers me if the world exists without an origin story. It’s okay, of course, if yours does. It’s possible that my readers will never know the origin story of my WIP’s story world anyway, but it helps me as a writer to know.
NOTE: There are a lot of things you will know, but the reader won’t, necessarily (this applies to all parts of world building) . Say when people first landed on your world, there was no source of clean water and the settlers had to set out giant leaves to collect rainwater and ration it out. Your reader probably won’t need to know that, unless it effects the ‘now’ of your world.
So whether you have a solid origin story or not is really up to you. You don’t have to get real extensive on your world’s history (unless it’s important to your story).
Coming up with an origin story is really not as scary as it sounds, or as difficult. I’m going to come up with one for my story world now. What’s the name, again?
Right. Khamir. (That’s not the name of the story world, just the name of one of the three provinces, but it’s the most important since it takes up most of the map so I’m going to use it.)
Khamir. Let's see. What I might do is go look up Chinese legends or history (since I am using China as inspiration for this story world). See if a large group of people (maybe a boat?) went missing. Or maybe I don’t need a large group. Maybe during a war, a small group of families, desperate to escape, fled the country. But something happened – something went wrong – and they were forced to flee to the mountains instead. There, deep in the heart of the Himalayas, they found it. A portal. And the three or four families were sucked inside, brought to a new land free from the pain of war …
BOOM. Origin story is born: YAY! Now, I don’t know how the portal got in the mountains or who created it or why, but that will come in time (and sometimes I don’t even need to answer these details. They just aren’t important enough).
Which leads to …
Step #2: The Timeline
I’m not a big fan of timelines. I can only stand so much order (I’m an ENFP, what can I say? I can only take so many lists). But they might help you. I tend to just keep a vague idea of what happened in my world’s past in the back of my mind to kind of help influence the culture and people and politics and geography and stuff.
Let's see. Say these four (I’m sticking to four now) Chinese families arrived in this new land. Frightened, hungry, and scared, struggling for survival, they began to build settlements. They might have found natives [who knows how they got there(maybe they stumbled upon the portal before these significant families)] and made peace with them.
But soon, the four families grew tired of each other. They began to fight. And then a fight so large grew, the group split up. Two families traveled east, to the land past Khamir. To the land called Chenpei. And so, these families grew over time and built villages which grew to towns which grew to cities which grew to entire nations. Yet always, there has been a stiff relationship – a rivalry of unknown origin – between the two provinces. Tare, located smack between them, is home to a people unlike those of Khamir and Chenpei. A native people who know things others do not.
See? Just that bit of history is already influencing the ‘now’ of my story world.
NOTE: These things take time. I spent eight months building and planning the idea that would become my WIP. Eight months: from the time I got the idea to the moment I put down the words, “Chapter One.” Everything was simmering and building and becoming real in my mind. That doesn’t happen over night.
Step #3: What You Already Have
You might have a good idea of some things that happen in your story world’s past. Or maybe you don’t, but you have some odd cultural traditions that you need an explanation for.
See, while most of the history you build won’t make it to your readers in words, it will show through the story you tell. It will help your creativity. It will flesh out your world and make it seem more real.
It makes a difference.
So let the ideas of how your world came to be, what all has happened since that time and the ‘now’ of your world, and cultural values and historical events that you already have but need more information on simmer in the back of your mind. Start a list, if that helps you. Take lots of notes, or take none at all. Do what works for you and let your creativity flow. If you want your culture to be afraid of water, trace that back. What caused that to happen? What happened to their ancestors to create such a stir?
You can get history from culture, and you can get culture from history. Beautiful how that works, isn't it?
NOTE: A little can go a long way.
Do you have an origin story? What kind of major events happened in your world’s past that effect the ‘now?’ Do you have any odd cultural values that you want an explanation for? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Be sure to pop in next week for part 3 on wildlife!