Will their world survive? World-building for a series

This guest post is by one of my fellow authors over at Turquoise Morning Press, Bobbye Terry. A veteran at writing in created worlds, she’s talking to us today about world-building.

Enter, stage right, head-strong heroine with kick-assitude. Enter, stage left, brooding hero with something to prove. He has a mission. He needs help. She willfully resists helping him. That is, until he woos her through his dry wit and unerringly strong character, winning her heart and enabling him to steal an embrace. But wait! They are fraught with the slings and arrows of outrageous villainy, keeping them from declaring their undying love and destined mating.

You do agree every good book deserves some outrageous villainy—ahem, villains—don’t you? Did I mention your book is set in the future world of Frostos and all those who survive must protect against the ancient followers, known as Ice-ciples, of the Abominable Snow Android, also known as an AS Andro, while staying warm with their revolving bubble-heating spheres? So, where do you begin and how will your idea spawn not one but many books around the central theme of defeating the ice-ciples and the AS Andro, then opening the mechanical clouds to the warmth of the eternal sun?

Before you sit down and busily start to get the first chapter down, stop. Be smart and consider the following list. Know where you want to go so you don’t have to come back and backtrack, and yes, pantsers, this will work for you (so said the queen of all pantsers, me).

Series world-building: things to consider

1.   Fantasy in current world or other world? Will your world co-exist with our current world or will it be different, play by new rules? If so, what are those rules?

2.   Future, present day, past or time travel?

Is this in the future on our planet Earth? If so, how did we get where we are? Background here…is it a dystopian world, ravaged by war and devastation of a flourishing paradise, or a world now controlled by one sect? How will you best illustrate the change in conditions? Is it in the past? If so, have you done your research about dialect, clothing, customs, conditions, activities and occupations for daily living? Is it a time travel? If so, how will you best contrast the dichotomy?

3.   Fantasy beings—in human form with special powers, category beings (vampires, witches, angels, zombies, demons, etc?), or totally new category?

If your characters look like humans but have powers, what are those powers? Is there a limit or an Achilles heel? If they fall into a category of beings, do they act like the stereotype of those in other novels, or do your beings look or act differently? If they do, bring that out early. Are they in a new category? If so, how do you describe them and how do you suspend belief?

4.   Items, terrain, locations, special features that remain in all books?

What is the glue that holds this series together, the constants? Think of one or a small number. In my series The Cash Chronicles—which was just released in print this month with The Rise and Fall of Millicent—the story centers around a dystopian word where the U.S. no longer has part of its land mass and has come under the tyrannical rule of the Primera, a woman who was cryogenically frozen and then cloned at a later date in the future. If you use the same locations each time, make sure these locations, their places, etc., stay the same in each book.

The Rise and Fall of Millicent

5.   Do the hero and heroine stay the same in every book or do they change?

If the hero and heroine are the same, how will you ensure that they can hold your readers from book to book? What is suspenseful that continues to propel readers forward? If hero and heroine change, what continuity do you bring over from earlier books?

6.   Tone of the booksneeds to stay similar.

You can’t have one dark and one light, one funny and one somber, one sweet and one ultra hot. The transition between books need to be smooth like a nice glass of wine or a great piece of jazz music.

7.   Keeping all the characters straight—do you have them written down somewhere, including physical and personality details?

This is very hard after you write 80—100,000 words times three or four or five. Write down all your characters, their idiosyncrasies, their traits so you can reference to make sure they stay the same. Even if they’re short-term in the book or the series, you need to keep track of the names and using the same letters, etc. Consider doing some back-story, other things about what make them who they are. You may want to do a companion book like Sherrilyn Kenyon did for the Dark Hunter series.

8.   Website—does your world have its own distinct website?

This may be a good idea if the series is long. Always be ready to greet your readers and fans with information to whet their reading appetites.

I hope this has gotten you to start thinking, or maybe a single title sounds real good about now…

Bobbye Terry is the multi-published writer of fantasy, suspense and romantic comedy novels under her own name, her solo pseudonym, Daryn Cross, and her co-authored one, Terry Campbell. She also writes inspirational nonfiction. Her previous works have garnered finalist awards in the Booksellers’ Best and other RWA-sponsored contests. Bobbye’s most recent release is The Rise and Fall of Millicent by Daryn Cross, In the Stillness Publications. Nothing Ever Happens in Briny Bay, a compilation of the novellas in the Briny Bay mystery series by Bobbye Terry, will release this summer through Turquoise Morning Press. Additionally, she has a new inspirational book, The Light Within released in May 2013 and another Joy Glows, which will release mid-July.  

Bobbye Terry

Bobbye Terry

3 Comments on “Will their world survive? World-building for a series”

  1. Bobbye Terry says:

    I’ve been writing all day and forgot this posted today! Thanks for having me. 🙂

  2. Thanks Bobbye and Cass for sharing! I love dystopian fiction that has a fully-developed physical world. My favourite dystopian worlds are those that mirror the dominant ideology, social flaws and character rebellion. Many novels address this in the form of a unique physical landscape, but I’ve recently started to consider how fashion may also have a role to play. This is obviously more clearly seen in the movie/television adaptations, but maybe there is an opportunity for dystopian literature to also explore this characterisation (in strategic and meaningful ways)?

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