I am trying to decide how much to talk about this project, if at all, on a public blog. I am not narcissistic enough to be really concerned about it being ripped off, but it’s really the only intellectual property I have that I have a true emotional investment in. I am happy to give away personal essays, reviews, opinion pieces, and other forms of nonfiction all day long. I wouldn’t post that stuff if I weren’t hoping that someone might share it. My fantasy world is different, because it is the most difficult canvass I have ever painted on. And it is the only thing I have ever written that I feel is totally my own.
This summer I sat down and spent six weeks putting all the information on the world into digital documents. I drew a map of a continent larger than South America with realistic coastlines, names for major geographical systems, etc. I also collated a lot of notes I’d piled up over the years about countries, the theory of the cosmos the denizens of this world use to explain magic, economic systems, history, and so forth. I put all the written stuff into Wikidpad because I find the Wiki format very useful for this sort of work.
When I was done, I pasted all the wiki pages into a single Word document just to get some idea of the scope of the information I’d piled up. It turned out to be 85 pages long, and it is full of seeds for stories.
I’ve reached the point with it where I can’t really use a lack of background knowledge about the world as a reason to continue my worldbuilding instead of writing a story. When I look at my map I can see the plate boundaries and logical, Earthlike ecological patterns. I can place 40 population centers on the map, explain the trade routes between them, and outline their cultures. I can allow my characters to use magic that makes sense in terms of the tradeoff between cost and effect. I can move characters from one end of this continent to the other by foot, horse, and ship with impunity.
I have a few characters that I like, and a few scenes in which some of them are introduced and do cool things, and that is about as far as I’ve gotten.
Which is all just a way of saying I need to get to work, I guess.
I want to write a story in which a big war breaks out and engulfs the entire continent. In my own mind, it’s kind of like the 30 Years War with magic. I don’t really want the characters to be central to the war, but I want the war to force them to take sides and choose between things like supporting their relatives and pursuing lifelong ambitions. Oh, and clockwork golems and dangerously primitive firearms are in there someplace, too.
I don’t know that I have much useful to say about how to go about building a world. Every world starts from a seed. Tokien famously started from language; I started from geography, and if I can get to the point where I have an actual serviceable story set in this world, I will be satisfied with what I have accomplished.