Posted by: Phil Anderson | September 15, 2013

More About Creating a World

The fictional worlds I most enjoy, and the ones I try to emulate in my own writing, are those that are intricate and complex enough to seem believable without being overwhelming. Detail invites a reader to return and pulls them ever farther and deeper into a world and the lives of the characters who live there. But what’s alluring to a reader can be a headache for a writer. How does one keep straight all those elaborate details?

J. R. R. Tolkien for example had copious notes about the numerous races and languages in Middle-earth, as well as millennia of history. So many notes, in fact, that his son Christopher was able to publish a twelve volume History of Middle-earth after his father’s death.

My favorite contemporary writer is Greg Weisman, executive producer of many excellent animated television series. What I like best about his work is that the plots are deeper and the continuity arcs are more involved than in most cartoons. His past work includes Gargoyles, the Spectacular Spider-Man, and Young Justice, and he has now started work on Star Wars Rebels. He’s also writing a series of novels, the first of which, Rain of the Ghosts, comes out this December. On his blog, Greg was asked about the differences between writing for television and writing a novel. He replied, “In some ways it’s very similar. I’m still plotting things with index cards. I’m still writing bibles and timelines. I’m still trying to create fully fleshed-out characters and worlds.”

For my own work I’ve created a setting for Conquest of Theran, the book series I’m writing. In developing that fictional kingdom I’ve gotten ideas that go beyond the series which have led to some short stories that take place in that same world. I’ve posted “Forbidden” here on this blog, I’m still developing one called “Salvation”, and I have ideas for several more.

I’ve found some necessary tools that I use to organize my thoughts and ideas, most of which are mobile, since I do a lot of thinking on the move and have limited time to just sit and write.

  • First, although I’m not an artist, I draw a lot. My map of Theran is very important and gets more and more detailed all the time. I also make sketches of various characters so I can visualize what they look like. Here’s someone I doodled earlier today:


  • I also have an app called Idea Sketch, which I use when I’m plotting out stories, to keep track of who is where and when. Here’s an Idea Sketch of the first book in Conquest of Theran.

Conquest of Theran

  • I have another new app called Trunk Notes which is basically a personal wiki. I can create entries and link them to other entries just like Wikipedia. I find myself wasting too much time with this one.

A lot of care and effort goes into creating elaborate and sophisticated fictional worlds. But when they feel real enough that you want to spend time there, the effort really pays off.

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