Friday, September 11, 2015

World Building for Your Stories

The Ground Beneath Our Feet,  as well as the air, stars, plants, civilizations and the people who call it home. A lot goes into building worlds when you step into Science Fiction or Fantasy. I’d like to say I put a lot of work into developing the worlds in my stories, but so far they come to me as virtually complete images, just needing a bit of polish to make them shine.

My most recent release, Star People Legacy, takes place on Earth in the near-future. That made the world building part easy. I even knew exactly where it took place. On the dry, hot, inhospitable Goldwater Bombing Range in southwest Arizona.

Why? Two reasons. First, I was stationed on the U. S. Air Force side of the range during my stint in the military. Secondly, one day some of our guys came back from dirt-biking on a closed section of the range, with a ‘men in black’ story. Most of us questioned whether they’d sampled some wild cactus, getting the benefits of a bit too much mescaline.

Whatever the truth was, I carried that weird little story around in my head for years (and years). Then, driving through the area on the way to San Diego Comicon with Gini Koch (SFRB member and author of the Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Kat series), I told her the story. I barely got the words out of my mouth before MY story coalesced. I pulled out my laptop and started writing.

Of course the story in my head was different. I had to alter the location slightly. The base I’d been stationed on is virtually gone now, so I shifted to the Yuma side of the range. The primary character became a female U.S. Marine Captain. Also a member of the Navajo Nation.

Socially, the issues of illegal immigration still exist, but other issues have changed. Such as Native American politics. In my future world they had truly become One Nation. My ‘men-in-black’ encounter leads the character into a truth-altering battle, where ancient Native American mythology collides with Science Fiction.

The secondary characters took a bit of supporting research, except for one special person. On the way to San Diego, we (meaning Gini) got pulled over by an Arizona Highway Patrolman. He let us (meaning Gini) go with a verbal warning, and told us (yeah, meaning Gini) where all the next speed traps were. So Mr. Highway Patrolman became my character’s main squeeze, and I didn’t kill him.

My characters grew as I nailed down the exact myths needed to tell the story. I threw in some real historical facts, blending them in to fit the story. Since I tend to write strong female military characters, a little misogyny show up. Sad to say, but I can’t help but to believe that gender issues in the military will never totally go away. Not even when we ‘poor defenseless women’ start kicking butts all the way to Alpha Centauri.

All this happened in the back seat of Gini’s jam-packed Scion, driving just a wee bit too fast, through my old stomping grounds. I had the story completely outlined by the time we unpacked in San Diego.

But this was just one example of my world building process. For writers, ideas come from all around us. Something that happened in our real lives. A joke on the radio. A picture on a passing billboard. Someone tossing out a ‘what if… all can be sparks igniting our next endeavor. \

Our unbelievable characters can be a real people. That fellow soldier we served beside. A professor that impressed us. An Ex who didn’t. All these people can be morphed into what we need, modeling them into the perfect lover, or villain. Or both.

A great resource for figuring out imaginary societies, politics and religion exists right here on planet Earth. Within the same continents we have everything from Super Powers to 3rd World countries. Every nation contains a magnitude of differing religions and politics, from relatively peaceful to frightfully warring. From the past we hear the extinct whispers of humans who struggled to survive. And everywhere you can find a theorists trying to figure out what it takes to create Utopia.

As for the environments of our fantastic new world, look to our planet Earth. She gives us a vast array of environments, from frozen tundra to scorching deserts, from the highest altitudes to the deepest sea trenches. Ancient ruins to modern skyscrapers. It’s all here waiting for us to build or tear down at our literary whim.

So plant your feet wherever you desire, take a good look around and see that grows.