This post is a list of seven tired, over-used tropes in fantasy and science fiction world-building. I read the article, agree with it, and am very relieved that I didn’t find any of these tropes in the Perfect Coven series (so far; it’s early in the books, we may slip up, but this post is here to remind us not to do so!).
“I’m making great progress on this story.”
“This plot is flowing wonderfully.”
“Uh…I have no idea what to do here. What options do I have?”
If you’re a writer and you have ever had an internal dialogue that ended like this one, you may be writing in a shared world. A shared world, in case you haven’t run across the term before, is a world in which stories by multiple authors take place, often with the world itself having been created by those same authors.
This Perfect Coven series we are doing is in a shared world of our own creation. This is allowing for some excellent story-building, but can cause problems not encountered when one is doing work of his/her sole creation.
When working in a shared world, everything you add to your story must be known to everyone else writing in the world. This is more difficult than it sounds. Our stories include a wide assortment of characters, all of whom are in the same very small environment and are at least somewhat acquainted with one another. If one character goes to a restaurant, for example, the other characters need to at least know of that restaurant. Which means that the writer who creates that restaurant in the story must provide full details of it to the other writers on the project. This could seem like a minor point – and by itself it is – but it becomes more important when other characters become involved. Did the person who went to the restaurant not mention it to anyone? Since all the characters live in the same close area, surely they would at last know of the restaurant’s existence.
Our characters are mostly students at a college. There are going to be many, many people that all these characters are going to know. Professors and other faculty members, students who work in the school bookstore, the dining hall staff, all these would be familiar faces and names to everyone in our stories. So all of us working on this must be fully aware of each of these people. How much consistency would our series have if three different names were given for the Dean of Students? Very little, in all likelihood, and we would probably lose our readers after the second name was presented.
Working in a shared world is requiring us to have very open and active lines of communication between the three of us. We meet once a week, and many of those meetings consist of world-building and brainstorming to fill in previously unknown gaps in the stories.
On a serious up side, sharing a world with other writers is a great way to incorporate into my stories ideas that do not originate with me. And I am finding that is pushing me to improve my skills as a writer.
Mickie says: I have it a bit easy since I’m writing the first book. I pretty much have first dibs on creating places and characters and establishing behavior and everyone else gets to follow suit. World building has been fun with the other writers because it makes us all think harder and try to be more creative in figuring out what would be in a modern college town.
In an unrelated note, I just got a new computer! I can be a bit of a luddite, so this touch screen thing is making me crazy right now. I may lose the rest of this month to figuring out how this thing works. I’m also concerned that my cat will be able to order from Amazon with her nose or tail.
Sid says: Shared world writing is pushing us all to develop as writers and as world builders. It’s an entirely different dynamic from a solo world that exists solely in your own head. We all need to know everything; that means much lively discussion over the creation of characters, places, events. An off-the-cuff mention by Mickie could become a major character/plot point/story arc for James or me. Sharing the world, and talking over every bit that goes in or is just a detail we added whether it’s explicitly mentioned on paper or not, makes for a living, breathing, more complete world and a better experience for the reader.
And it also makes the series bible (as discussed in an earlier post) one of the most important documents we’ve created. Every detail, no matter how minor, goes in there because it could become major in a later book, and it may not be a book the person who created said detail will write.