World Building


“Painting Globe” by MR LIGHTMAN. Photo courtesy of

Today my job is to turn away from a finished draft, a fully realized world and the music of its language still singing in my head, and turn to a new book, the nub of an idea with a world yet to be built. And I’m like a little kid again, reluctant to do my work. Because it’s hard. And yet I do want to do it, and so I have to remind myself that it’s time to think about a different place, a different time, not the one I just wrote about, that I’m still in love with and want to turn back to, where I know what the forest smells like, for example, and how the people talk, and . . . now stop that, I have to remind myself. Time to think about this dull, grey, unformed place, that isn’t yet. This egg of a world. So how to start? By giving it a little color. Lay down some streets, and a map of the city, maybe. What’s it like in there? And then some history. What story do the people tell themselves about the past, about their lives? And then the people. Who’s there? And what will happen to them? What troubles them, what troubles the whole place, and what can they do about it? That’s the beginning of it, maybe. Or tomorrow I might have a different answer.

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