Endfield – World Building – Clouds Part One
Before jumping in with a continuation of propping up your world building, I just want to say how thankful I am for email and support I’ve been given. I’m happy you enjoyed the last blog post as I wondered if it wasn’t too ethereal in nature. Today, I believe will be more concrete. Hopefully! 😊
In the last post, using generalities of what the world is to your story, I liken to brushing in hints of color on a blank canvas. I could also say it is much like the backdrop on a stage, something that gives off a feeling while framing the action you see before you.
If you had a specific place in mind of where the story resides, I would call it a setting. In what I’m attempting today is larger and possibly not as defined as one would suggest a setting to be. What I’m after is bits and pieces of information that will be large enough in scope to create many settings in many different places. In short, I’m developing a world. I will call these bits on information clouds on our canvas. Some are noticeable while others blend in, but they have some influence on the stories I might write. It can get heady but let’s attack it like we would story plots; jotting down important elements that can be used at a later date.
Each time I develop a world to write in, I have a desire to make it as real as possible. Yes, its fiction but my goal is to have it breathe by itself in a way that is relatable and believable no matter how foreign the world is. In world building, the simplest way to do this is to have a “functioning” world. You and I may not think about the weather until it impedes our goals, but its there none the less. We may not spend time thinking about the rules of the road as we drive because we’ve done it so often, but the laws are there. Politics, trade, society norms, etc. These are aspects of life that effect your daily life, but are not foremost in your mind each day unless there is a drastic change…which later become norms. These things are my ‘clouds’.
To begin, ask yourself questions about your world. Questions posed might be what the physical climate is like and how is it different from what you know. Questions of what the population is made up of and are there issues between the groups. Geography, sociology, politics, trade, factions, transportation and the like are all the cogs in the wheel of the world, but are clouds on the backdrop. They influence what you do and say, but aren’t necessarily noticed or they simply become topics of conversation. Their impact is obvious when you sit back to study them, but often these ‘clouds’ are so familiar they play in the background as we go about our daily lives. Just as you and I have them in our lives, the same should be true for your future characters.
So, time to put a few clouds on my canvas, knowing some may be more pronounced in the first story than other. Fortunately, this is fiction so we will give each a weight as we set fit to tell the tale. For my purpose, I have to start with a very influential cloud. It was one that I was emotionally affected by, much to my surprise.
When considering that I essentially broke the country in half and trimmed the coast lines back in horrify excess, geography is my first cloud to define in my head. To properly define the physical change in a way that would appease my need for visual effects, I took a map of the country around that time period and made the changes I believed suit my purpose. Using the New Madrid Fault as the cause of the mayhem, I separated the country in terrible display choosing to begin at the Gulf of Mexico and worked northward. Making the Mississippi some twenty-five miles wide (larger at the Gulf) has a huge impact as I begin to color in the new borders and note how it has expanded over lower elevations. States and cities are devastated or wiped away completely. Terrible. With the deadly colored pencil in hand, I move northward up until the Ohio River meets the Mississippi. If such an earthquake happened, it would trigger others with their own effects, or so I have it in my head. Following both rivers to their sources, my mind goes into overdrive and witnesses the Great Lakes beginning to fill and combine. Massive seas bubble up in Canada, the eastern half of the US slips further away as if on a barge loose from its moorings in a storm, the West is nearly gone and one can now see the Pacific from the top of the Rockies. The horror. I had to walk away from it for a time as I began to count the loss of life. It unnerved me as it was almost a plausible event.
Keeping with the geographical cloud, I considered if this was a local instance (only effecting the US) or had similar occurrences in the world happen. I weighed my need for that much detail and found it took expansive, knowing that will go unanswered for the time being. I turned my attention to our current neighbors, Mexico and Canada, believing that they too would have been effect by this continental change. Glancing at a larger world map, I made a few notes. It is my current thought that my stories would deal with what is left of the western part of the United States so I let it end with that.
Given the severity of this fictional event, the other ‘clouds’ will react and mold themselves into something quite different from what we know of the world today. Sitting back, I attempted to reconcile the known US history of the late 1870’s with what I had done. Being far from any true student of history, I gathered bits and pieces off the web about this decade and found how inadequate I was to the task. I would have to generalize in some aspects and smudge what has happened and what might have from here on out. I would have to decide what stayed, what changed and what didn’t happen. Though I’m certain to receive email from those who know US history like the back of the hand, it’s at this point a writer needs to nod then shrug. It is fiction, after all.
In the next blog, I’ll continue with more ‘clouds.’ While it’s true I could stop at this point and just begin writing, I feel I have to make some attempt toward answering how this major occurrence shaped society in both realistic ways along with introducing a few new ideas. This will get interesting if not unnerving.
Until then, bless and keep.