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Thursday, May 3, 2012

World Building

Please welcome guest blogger Cynthia Woolf

First I want to thank FF&P for having me on their blog today.  I like to reward my readers, so I will be giving away one copy of my CENTAURI SERIES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION  to one lucky commenter.  Be sure to comment in order to get the entry.

One of my critique partners asked me about world building.  How do I do it?  I answered her that I didn’t know.  I just built it and they came.  

Seriously, I never thought of it as world building.  That has such a forbidding connotation to it.  All I did was decide that I wanted this planet to use higher technology than we do.  Especially since in my world they’ve been able to build spaceships that go faster than the speed of light.  That has become a given in science fiction, thanks to Gene Roddenberry and  Star Trek with the warp drive.

I also decided that this world would have a monarchy, that is always passed through the Queen not the King.  But it would also be a British style monarchy with a senate.  However, any change must be ratified by the Queen and she can make anything she wants into law without the Senate’s approval.  She can request their input but doesn’t have to pay any attention to it if she doesn’t want to.

In my world, there are air cars which work like silent helicopters without the blades.  Why?  Because I can.  It’s my world.

I discovered that I was creating lots of words for things and would get several pages in and say to myself, “What did I call rabbits in this world?” and have to go back and try to find the passage where I referred to the rabbit type animal.  They are wheebee’s by the way.  So I made a bible.  I use this to keep track of every word I create and what it means in English.  For instance, Hell is Ashara.  God is Krios.  These are things I need to remember especially if my character is going to swear…which they do periodically.

I discovered that I don’t need to change the name of too many things or I lose the reader.  They are trying to understand what I’m calling what.  I change just a few, just enough to give the flavor and not too many so as to lose the reader.  I don’t want to pull them out of the story, trying to figure out what the thing is that I’ve named something.  It should be seamless.  It should be obvious from the sentence what the English word would be.  If it’s not then I didn’t do my job.

I’ve discovered that I don’t have to change everything for the flavor of the change to be there.  I want to give my readers just enough to give them the flavor of my world.  I don’t write hard science fiction.  I don’t concentrate on the workings of the warp drive.  Other authors have already paved the way for me in that arena.

No matter what I decide my world is going to have, going to be like, I have to remain faithful to that decision.  I have to be consistent, or I’m going to lose my readers and that’s the last thing I want to do.

Cynthia Woolf was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden.  She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.

Their closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so her little brother was her playmate and her best friend.  That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.

Cynthia was and is an avid reader.  Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week.  This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug.  She wrote her first story at the age of ten.  A romance about a little boy she liked at the time.

She worked her way through college and went to work full time straight after graduation and there was little time to write.  Then in 1990 she and two friends started a round robin writing a story about pirates.  She found that she missed the writing and kept on with other stories.  In 1992 she joined Colorado Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America.  Unfortunately, the loss of her job demanded the she not renew her memberships and her writing stagnated for many years.

In 2001, she saw an ad in the paper for a writers conference being put on by CRW and decided she'd attend.  One of her favorite authors, Catherine Coulter, was the keynote speaker.  Cynthia was lucky enough to have a seat at Ms. Coulter's table at the luncheon and after talking with her, decided she needed to get back to her writing.  She rejoined both CRW and RWA that day and hasn't looked back.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she's made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity. Find her books on Amazon

Centauri Dawn

Audra is a normal grad student in law school in Boulder, Colorado. Until the day she finds out she isn't. She's a princess from the planet Centauri. Her mission, whether or not she chooses to accept it, is to marry an alien and save the world, in order to save her family.

Darius is charged with delivering his brother's bride home to Centauri, ready to be queen. Falling in love isn't just forbidden, it's a death sentence for him and for his world.


Cynthia Woolf said...

Thanks for having me today. I'm really glad to be here and am looking forward to lots of comments.


Elysa said...

I love world building. It's difficult and lots and lots of fun.

Great comments, especially about creating new words for commonplace things. My philosophy is if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, call it a duck, not a quacker. :-)

Part of the fun, for me, in reading sci-fi and fantasy novels is reading stories set in other worlds.

Cora Blu said...

Nice post, Cynthia. I have to say reaing reading your book I never had that "huh" feeling of being thrown by something new. All your elements seem to fit. Which I have to say I think of as I expand my fantasy world.
Keep writing and I'll keep reading.

Cora Blu

Clover Autrey said...

World building is essential in any story, esp. in sci-fi or fantasy. The trick is to make it flow so naturally that readers don't realize you're in world-building mode, it just kinda happens.

Sounds like a great read.

Scott Rhine said...

When I'm planning, I first do the grand arc of world events in the background, then I do the detailed design the world. Then I pick the characters and the path to walk through them in an interesting fashion.

Cynthia Woolf said...

Elysa, I agree, part of the fun is being in a whole different world. But I don't want it so different that I can't imagine myself being there, being in the heroine's shoes.

Thanks for commenting.

Cynthia Woolf said...

Thanks for the comment Cora. I'm glad that you think all my elements fit. I try very hard to make them do so.

Cynthia Woolf said...

Thanks for the comment Clover. I couldn't agree more.

Cynthia Woolf said...

Thanks for commenting Scott. It's always interesting for me to see how others do their world building.

Virginia said...

I can't really say I build my world - my characters do or at least they show me where they come from, how they live and the rules of their world...
I'd really like to have a hand in their world but all I can do is relay it the best as I can.


Pauline B Jones said...

I think world building is, at the beginning at least, rather like going to a new country. You look around, you get used to it, you see what's different and what's familiar. No one sees everything all at once and if the character IS familiar with the world the trick is introducing it without info dumps. And w/o annoying readers who WANT the info dumps. (grin)

congrats on the releases!

Cynthia Woolf said...

Virginia, I have other friends who say the same thing. Their characters build their world, tell them what is what. I wish my characters talked to me more like that. :-)

Cynthia Woolf said...

Pauline, you are absolutely right. Getting a good balance for those who want the information dump and those who don't is tricky. Hopefully, I've been able to find that balance.

Shelley Munro said...

Cynthia, you said you keep a bible. What do you use? A notebook or something on your computer. A program?

LKF said...

Nice post. I'm in awe at people that write fantasy. I can't seem to get a good story line for one. But I do love to read them.

Anonymous said...

I use a plain old spiral notebook for m bible.

Allie Ritch said...

The world building is my favorite part of sci-fi and fantasy. Those genres really free a writer's imagination. I love the world building, or in this case universe building, that you did in the Centauri series, Cynthia.