Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Leanna and Isabo's Chaos Theory Guide to Non-Linear World-Building Redux

Leanna Renee Hieber and I gave a talk for the chapter on Saturday which involved discussing our chaotic way of world-building. I thought the talk showed off our chaotic process by being a little chaotic itself. :)

Fellow chapter memeber, Jerrica Knight-Catania posted her own brilliant blog on one aspect of the talk--Where the Magic Happens--inspired by the fact that both Leanna and I find a lot of our ideas and world-building happens in the shower.

As a very recent example of this: Sunday night, very late, after I'd put Jack to bed (this is something like 1:30am, btw), I ended up in the shower--the first peaceful shower I've had in awhile--and I started thinking about my current WIP. Thanks to Jack sleeping in on Sunday morning (hooray!) I was able to write a bit that day. I decided to mull over the upcoming scene so I'd be able to more easily start when the next chance to write arose (I have to take time where I can these days!).

Lo and behold, I realized I have a serious--and I mean SERIOUS--logic error in the section of story I'd just written that morning. This was the kind of logic error that could have gotten me into a world of trouble with both my editor and my readers. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before this. So I spent the rest of the shower and the first few minutes in bed figuring out how to fix the problem. Fixing things involved expanding my world AND giving my heroine an extra issue which placed a further wedge between her and the hero. It deepened the emotional journey of the characters as well as added more dimension to the world. At this point it hit me that the world was complex enough I could even write further stories here. Since I'd intended this as a once off, more stories was not in the original plan. But because of the way I world-build, this was also not the first time this had happened to me.

All I can say is thank you universe for hot showers! Even if I do have yet another possible series on my hands. :) This is also the perfect example of how my worlds get built while I'm writing. Even if there's been advanced planning before I start to write, I discover what I need to tell the story as I start telling it. As Leanna would say, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

So Leanna and I encouraged others to discover this magical place where you can solve all story problems, break through blocks and uncover hidden traps in your worlds. Once you start thinking about it, I'm sure you'll realize you already have that spot. Just wait, you'll find yourself hurrying to do the dishes, visit the doctor, or take a shower just so you can concentrate on your story.

The other thing we encouraged people to think about is where their stories start (delving into your writing process here). I start with characters, sometimes in a scene, sometimes with just a bit of dialogue or an impression, but I have to have characters or I don't have a story. Once I've got the characters, I go to the shower and start world-building. And remember world-building is done by all authors, whether you write contemparies, historicals, fantasies, paranormals, or suspense. No matter the setting, we all have to build a world the reader will believe.

So where do you start? When an idea first comes to you--or when you're trying to think up a new story idea--what hits you first? Setting? Plot? Character? Conflict? Just some random situation? What do you need to know to get excited about writing a new book? Where does your world-building start?



  1. A great follow-up to a great presentation Kat, and I think the two most important points that you stress are how the world-building not only gives a structure for the PLACE where your story is told, but how the very world-building itself can impact your characters, the conflict, and the very plot. Rather than just being a framework, it is an integral part of the story itself. And the second important point you stress - that "world building" is not just for fantasies or paranormals or sci-fi and futuristic tales. It is for every single type of story that can be told. Because no matter the time, place or level of reality, you as an author are creating a fictitious world for your characters - even if they are a lawyer and an accountant in NYC, their world is a non-existent one and must be created as believable and rich for your readers. Thanks for sharing your secret tip, too, Kat. Me? I've always known a good hot bath or a lazy afternoon in a chair in the garden on a balmy day were good for opening those creative portals.

  2. It sounds like a I missed an amazing presentation on Saturday. Thanks for blogging about it!

    I find that most of my ideas come to me while I'm moving. At the gym, on a bike or in the car (sometimes even just walking in circles around my apartment!), that is when the ideas start flowing. I've found it is particularly hard to write them down while driving, but I've flown off the treadmill many times in search of a pen and paper.

  3. Thanks for the props, Isabo! :)

    For me, every story has started out differently. When I first started writing, it was a total fluke and I literally just put my fingers to the keyboard with nothing in mind other than Regency London. The subsequent stories spun off of that first one, so I guess I've mostly been character driven. The plot idea of the rewrite of book 1 came from a contest I entered over a year ago. One of the judges' comments has been rolling around in my head for a year, and it finally took root when I was forced to do a rewrite.

    I think the key is keeping an open mind. You never know where your ideas will come from, or when they will come. That's the fun of writing, I think :)

    Great post, and again, great presentation on Saturday!!

  4. Fantastic post, Isabo! I'd have to say character comes to me first, but usually that character is in their setting at the time. A packaged deal. Whether it's a seventeenth century castle or a modern day Highland Games.

  5. I'd like to thank both of you for giving such an awesome and in depth workshop on Saturday and sharing your secrets for creating the perfect world.

    I get my ideas while walking on the boardwalk. I usually come up with the idea first and then create the characters to fit into the shoes. My settings are generally in the present.

    On again, thank you both Leanna and Katrina for a fabulous workshop and post.

  6. I am on the same page (tee hee) as Jerrica and Nicole. While sometimes a character springs to life (rather like that god from Zeus' forehead) first, there are times when it is the situation - the place and the person and the action - that erupt simultaneously. One WIP is an erotic futuristic where the place was vividly prominent and I then populated it with distinct characters who, I might add, seemed right at home! But the world itself always imbues the characters' lives. I will discover traits of the characters as they travel through the world in question, that I did not foresee in the initial characterization process.

  7. I find it really fascinating that Lise and Jerrica, you can start with a setting or situation. I've tried that. I suppose for Marshall's Guard it was sort of a situation--but it was really the characters in a particular situation that struck me. Without specific characters, I just can't get a story going. It's amazing how different this works for everyone, isn't it? Jerrica, you're right, it's a matter of keeping an open mind.

    Also, on the moving as a way to get ideas, as I was thinking about that I realized I do that sometimes too. If I'm completely blocked and it's not raining out, I will get up and go for a long walk. When I was the one walking Eddie (the dog) regularly, I used to mull over story ideas all the time. Movement is about as good as a shower. But I have to say, I like that hot water best :)

  8. Yes, Kat, hot showers are great! I can spend hours in there (well, maybe not hours but a long time) working out a dialogue between characters. I guess they like to talk to me in the shower. But no sword fights!

  9. Thanks for posting the rundown, my other half!

    I love to see the conversation continuing. I really do believe there is a constant dialogue about process, between ourselves, the industry, our muse, etc.

    It's so cool to have a place to talk about it with other authors.