There’s a problem that comes when you build a storyworld as time permits over several years – the real world keeps on turning. And people in that real world keep doing cool things that shape and change your thinking. New developments in science and technology keep revolutionizing the world, making the speculative and fantastical ordinary. Or maybe that’s just because I write science fiction.
It’s just about the last item on my priority list, but my storyworld New Glory shakes more and more into place every few months. At first, I’d thought to build it by developing aspects I found interesting…but that didn’t last long. Then, I thought I’d build it by developing aspects I needed for the story I was working on at the moment. That was similarly doomed. Oddly enough, neither was the right approach. I’ve needed to work on the city both ways at the same time.
This has a lot to do with the fact that a world is a series of systems. Any scientist could tell you this, but it took forever for my inner former informal science teacher to really catch on to what that meant in creating a fictional world. So, if you take on the brave challenge of creating a fictional world, don’t do what I did and create multiple layers within the same city your first time out. Instead, identify the basic systems in play — biological, geographical, political, etc. — and start fleshing them out, taking note of where and how they intersect and affect each other. Then, you can explore those intersections a bit more closely.
Often, you’ll find that in exploring these system seams, you’ll create points of tension that will make your world that much more interesting to write in and that will keep you coming back to write in that world more often.