Evin required me to build the forest and the worlds connected to it. The forest and the places the characters came from each had to have their own distinct ambience and identity. It couldn't feel like I was sending the characters to the same places over and over. I hope it didn't feel that way.
Project 2016 also demanded some world building--more, in fact, than Evin did.
See, Project 2016 is a set in the far future. And in space.
I love Firefly, but I will never understand why you go through the trouble of telling a story in space only to not have any aliens. Seriously. None? None at all?
There are several ways that this gets complicated. First, though my two POV characters are both human, they don't have lives like humans living today. Time, technology, and interaction with other sapient species have changed social arrangements and day-to-day activities for humans. It's up to me to determine how much has changed--and how much has stayed the same. I have to determine what technology exists, how it's used, and who has access to it. Beyond that, I have to figure out who came up with the technology first, because that's going to play a role in things like where the money is, who gets to make governmental decisions, and even what language people will speak--not just my human characters, but the other characters they come into contact with.
I also have to figure out my nonhuman characters--to build their species from the ground up. What about them is similar to humans and what's different? Why did these particular differences develop? How might these physical differences shape differences in culture (for instance, one of my species has a very refined sense of hearing--so they don't listen to music with brass or wind instruments because they can easily hear the spit moving through the instruments and it sounds gross). Does each species tend towards diplomacy or warfare? I also have to figure out how each species first came into contact with the others--peaceful first encounters might mean alliances, where violent once might mean long-standing grudges, and either is going to shape how members of different species interact.
And all of this is aside from the building required for any book--the characters' personal histories and their specific experiences with the framework of the world they live in and other characters associated with different groups, whether they're technologically savvy, if they've ever even seen a person from a different species.
There are so many moving parts that I'm not always confident that I'm doing a good job keeping track of them. Evin seemed like it was easier--though that could honestly have been more of a factor of my not knowing as well what I was doing.
For Project 2016, I built a universe bible. For me, it's a word document where I've listed the rules of the story's world--the history, notable people, some of the laws and political set ups. It has a brief description of each of the species and how they relate to the others, a history of how some of the important organizations and groups were formed and what the popular opinion of them seems to be.
I think I've been pretty thorough this time--more than I have been in the past. But I still worry that I've missed something. Part of the problem is that I don't usually know what aspect of the world I don't have pinned down until I need it in the story. And then I end up having to go back and put it in (and usually adjust everything around it so that things still make sense).
At this point, I know the world of Project 2016 well, and, as I said in the last post, I'm pretty fond of it.
Putting together the world of Project 2016 has been a lot of work, and I'm not sure how effectively I did it, though I can safely say I'm confident that I did it better this time than last time. And there's a lot of information that I have that's didn't make it into the project (though some of it may be in future projects, if I revisit this universe).
World building is the best and worst part of the process--there's so much potential for the story when you start putting the world together, but there's also so much that can go wrong or get out of hand (at what point does world building stop helping the story and start getting in the way?).
I'm in the early stages of world building for the next project, though I haven't completely left Project 2016. I still don't think I'm great at it, but I do think I'm getting better.
That's the best part of writing, I think. It's always hard, and sometimes I hate it, but I keep getting better--and I do love that.