When I hear the term “worldbuilding” I automatically think of the science fiction and fantasy genres–stories set in worlds other than our own, be they other planets, other galaxies, other times, or even alternate realities. Generally places where the rules of our “normal” reality don’t apply. Middle Earth. The Neutral Zone. Shannara. Crydee. Hogwarts. Places where you can make up your own rules about things (and should in order to avoid contradicting yourself as you tell your tale). Consequently, it’s not something I ever gave much thought to actually doing.
But when I decided to create my fictional Mississippi county and town a la Faulkner, my brain began painting the setting on the canvas of my brain. And as I started thinking about the intersections between characters in various stories (because the crux of the whole thing is that in real life, Mississippi is one big small town), all these characters began showing up. Some with plots, some without. Ah well that was okay–brain dolls can add color and entertain me when I’m bored, right?
Well then yesterday I figured out the intersection between Collin and Kensie’s story and Marin and Wyatt’s story. And that made me happy on multiple fronts. Well back when I began TD, I had already been envisioning some spin off novels with various characters. Tate, Marin’s roommate will get her own story. And Detective Spence Whittaker who features in both TD and HOC will get his. And his cousin Jessie, who’s actually a character in A Home For The Holidays (that novella I started and went nowhere with because of lack of a plot) with another cousin, Livia. So today I finished the second reread of TD to get myself back in their heads (and hopefully do some real actual writing tonight–what a concept), I got to thinking about how Collin becomes interim Sheriff in HOC. I’d decided that he was the one who blew the lid off of some major corruption in the county that led to the sacking of a bunch of people. And that led to the thought that Jessie, who is in law school and whose story will involve her finding out information she shouldn’t at the law office where she works, might be involved in that too somehow. Which places another book earlier in the timeline before HOC (though I will write HOC before I figure out what the hell to do with Jessie). And then I got to thinking, well what was Collin doing before he gets elected interim Sheriff? I mean, he graduates college, enlists in the Marines as an officer for 6 years, gets out and becomes a cop/deputy. I was actually trying to figure out if he’s made detective by the time TD occurs. Because I need a deputy guarding Marin in the scene I need to write today, and I figured it would be a nice way to throw him in. It’s going to cause a big stink when he’s elected interim sheriff because he’s young and doesn’t have as much experience–but, well, it’s interim (they hold an emergency election), he was the one who blew the lid off the corruption, and he’s got experience leading from the military.
Anyway all this ridiculous convoluted plotting has led me to realize that I’ve been worldbuilding. It’s in our reality, our universe. But every time I imagine a local business, like Mississippi Mud, the coffee shop on Main Street; or Big Muddy’s, the local bar that Collin’s best friend Seth owns–I’m worldbuilding. When I start thinking about local politics and who has what position and how everybody knows everybody, I’m world building. And if I do my job as a writer, then readers will see it as every bit as real as their own.