Calling All Worldbuilders

I don’t know how some of you do it. Worldbuilding is really something else, and I’m having a little trouble with it.

I’m sitting here, “working” on one of my projects (staring at the screen and thinking a lot) before NaNoWriMo is upon us, and it’s my first story that requires any real worldbuilding. All of my previous work has been pretty deeply rooted in the real world, with maybe a couple of otherworldly exceptions. I had foolishly thought worldbuilding would never be something I’d have to think about much because fantasy and sci-fi are not really in my writing wheelhouse.

While based in the real world, this story involves reapers. Not The Grim Reaper, per se, but more like a global network of reapers. Figuring out how they operate, where they go and why, what they look like and why, etc. has got me a little stymied. With the rough draft I kept it pretty simple, but now as I try to tighten everything down and ensure everything makes sense, I realize I have some unanswered questions to…well, to answer.

* I did not build this world

Due to circumstances partially beyond my control, I’ve found myself moving 4 times in the last 5 years. As you can imagine, things have a way of getting shuffled around. As such, I’m going to have to go on a hunting expedition through my garage and basement for a buried treasure: Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer (author of the Southern Reach trilogy—the first of which, Annihilation, was adapted into a film). I’ve written about my love of this writer’s guide to “creating imaginative fiction” before, as it’s far more engrossing than your typical all-text book. Full of wonderful, fantastical illustrations and more advice than you can shake a stick at (from a who’s who of authors to boot), Wonderbook is an indispensible resource for nearly any writer. As it happens, it’s also the only book I own (other than novels) that can help me understand how to build my little reaper-infested world for my own book.

If you don’t own it, buy it

In the meantime, however, while I look for my buried treasure, if you have experience worldbuilding I’d love to know how you got good at it. Was it just by doing, or did you read anything (instructional, novels, or otherwise) that helped you figure out what to do?

Published by Kenneth Jobe

Kenneth Jobe is a writer, photographer, musician, and Native Californian living in the Midwest with his wife and son. His fiction has been published in Jitter, The Rusty Nail, Ghostlight: The Magazine of Terror, and the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep, Volume 2. His debut novel, The End of Jimmy Ray Day, is being published by Literary Wanderlust, coming late 2021.

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