Help me welcome Elyan Smith to Pants Off! He also brought a great giveaway so be sure to read and comment.
For me writing has always been inherently intuitive. I'm not someone who reads many textbooks or listens to panels or lectures on how to write, I just do what I do, but I remember reading about a panel more or less recently that discussed two approaches to world building. The panelists distinguished between creating the world first and then populating it with a story or making up the world as they wrote the story.
Now, I write contemporaries almost exclusively, so it didn't occur to me to think of anything I do as world building, per se, but I suppose even with worlds that are as close to the physical reality as possible, they are still worlds that need to translate from the writer's imagination to the page and from there to the reader's imagination.
The closest analogy I found to explain how a story or a world develops in my head is probably that of a first person video game. Think ego shooter, just less violent (for the most part). Think roleplaying game maybe, where you look at the world through the character's eyes and move your video game character through the world as if you were actually moving in the world yourself. With every step you take, every time you turn your head, a new detail or a different angle or a different aspect appears that remains hidden as long as you don't look at it. The game loads as you progress through it rather than existing and allowing you an overview of the world your character isn't aware of yet.
On a technical level this plays into style (I tend to write fairly detail-focused) and point of view (very tight third for me, most of the time). On a storytelling level though it leads to the story developing as I write it and as the character discovers it -- I'm obviously not a plotter.
I generally start with a) a scene and b) a specific tone or atmosphere. Almost automatically there's a character who perceives that specific scene and is somehow connected to that specific atmosphere, without me, as the writer, really knowing anything about that character or the world they're in other than the aspects contained within that first moment.
Portside opens with weather (windy, wet) and with some details in that world (abandoned building, peeling paint, water in the distance) and only then introduces the character by way of wind creeping into his clothes and pulling at his hair as he stands in the scene. That first idea sets the tone for the rest of the story even if I have, at this point, no idea who the character is and who he will turn into.
The character then begins to quite literally walk through the world, and like in a video game, the fronts of buildings, associated thoughts, impressions and memories, are loaded into the story to populate the world around the person who leads me wherever he or she is going. It's a very visual way of writing. In fact, I tend to write scenes as if I'm filming them, including panning shots, zooms and close-ups, cuts and different camera angles.
So ideally, when someone reads a story of mine, it'll be a bit like watching a film. All the necessary details should be in place and implied, unfolding for the viewer as the character moves through the story, building with a few repetitions of themes and ideas and somewhat of a 'that's kinda cool' moment somewhere.
I only started thinking of this in terms of world building when I began discussing writing with others and kept insisting that I didn't built worlds, I only wrote what was already there. I like the realities of the world we live in, I suppose, and I usually try to put them onto the page as immediate and as direct as possible, allowing the reader to be the person seeing the world the same way I do, and the same way the character does.
~As part of the Portside blog tour, leaving a comment will enter you into a drawing for a $20 Amazon gift certificate.~
Life on the dole in a dying town is defined by drinking when you can, smoking to pass the time, and, if you’re gay, going down to the barracks at the old port to get some. Iwan’s got the cigarettes and the booze down pat, but he lacks experience, which has him sticking to online porn and watching other people.
Everyone else seems to have moved past getting what they want, while all Iwan can think of is what could go wrong. He knows who he is, regardless of labels. But no matter how often his best friend Lyn tells him to just go for it, he doesn’t trust other people to see past his mismatched body.
Paying for what he’s afraid to get for free is a long shot, but it’s better than just watching, and it’s better than porn. It doesn’t change the world he lives in, but it changes him.
Please join Elyan at his next blog tour stop here.