CRAFT: What About Worldbuilding For a Series?
Welcome to our bi-weekly posts from guest columnist, Bobbye Terry. This week she asks some great questions for world building your series. We’re curious to hear your tips too! Share your thoughts with us! Thanks!
You have an idea for a series, a whole world unto itself, whether it be contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi or historical. But where do you begin and how will your idea spawn not one, but many books around some central theme?
Before you sit down and busily start to get the first chapter down, stop. Be smart and consider the following list. Know where you want to go so you don’t have to come back and backtrack, and yes, pantsers, this will work for you (so said the queen of all pantsers, me).
Series Worldbuilding — List of Things to Consider
1. Is this the world as you know it or one past present, but different, or future? Will your world co-exist with our current world or will it be different, play by new rules? If so, what are those rules? If it’s in the past, have you done your research about dialect, clothing, customs, conditions, activities and occupations for daily living? Is it a time travel? If so, how will you best contrast the dichotomy?
2. Are your characters human beings or those with special powers, category beings (i.e., vampires, witches, angels, zombies, demons, etc?), or a totally new category?
If your characters look like humans but have powers, what are those powers? Is there a limit or an Achilles heel? If they fall into a category of beings, do they act like the stereotype of those in other novels, or do your beings look or act differently? If they do, bring that out early. Are they in a new category? If so, how do you describe them and how do you suspend belief?
3. Items, terrain, locations, special features that remain in all books?
What is the glue that holds this series together, the constants? Think of one or a small number. In my series now in progress, the series centers around the holy book, The Book of the Beginning. If you use the same locations each time, make sure these locations, their places, etc., stay the same in each book.
4. Do the Hero and Heroine stay the same in every book or do they change?
If the hero and heroine are the same, how will you ensure that they can hold your readers from book to book? What is suspenseful that continues to propel readers forward? If hero and heroine change, what continuity do you bring over from earlier books?
5. Tone of the books—needs to stay similar.
You can’t have one dark and one light, one funny and one somber, one sweet and one ultra hot. The books need to be smooth like a nice glass of wine or a great piece of jazz music.
6. Keeping all the characters straight—do you have them written down somewhere, including physical and personality details?
This is very hard after you write 80-1000,000 words times three or four or five. Write down all your characters, their idiosyncrasies, their traits so you can reference to make sure they stay the same. Even if they’re short-term in the book or the series, you need to keep track of the names and using the same letters, etc. Consider doing some backstory, other things about what make them who they are. You may want to do a companion book like Sherrilyn Kenyon did for the Dark Hunter series.
7. Website—does your world have its own distinct website?
This may be a good idea if the series is long. I have one for my Book of the Beginning series. It’s not complete yet, but will be as the first book debuts. Always be ready to greet your readers and fans with information to whet their reading appetites.
I hope this has gotten you to start thinking, or maybe a single title sounds real good about now…
Bobbye Terry is the multi-published writer of fantasy, suspense and romantic comedy novels under her own name, her solo pseudonym, Daryn Cross, and her co-authored one, Terry Campbell. Her previous works have garnered finalist awards in the Booksellers’ Best and other RWA-sponsored contests. Bobbye’s most recent releases are Millicent and Frozen Assets, available now on Kindle and Smashwords and her first mystery novella, Buried in Briny Bay, from Turquoise Morning Press, is also currently available at most distributors. You can find more about Bobbye and her books at http://DarynCross-fantasy.Blogspot.com.
If anyone is interested in seeing what a formal Shared World Guide looks like, which is like a TV show’s cordordance book, you can look at the one for Time Yarns. It includes all of the above, plus timelines, notes on slang and cussing at different time periods, the physics and metaphysics behind the central ideas of the world, notes on technologies of time time periods and the slang terms and brand names for same, etc.
Good information, Erin. Thanks for sharing.
Also everyone, both Millicent and Frozen Assets, the first actual book of the sci-fi series,are up on Smashwords. Frozen Assets is already live at Amazon as well.
Bobbye, you certainly excel at worldbuilding. I loved Millicent and wish you a million sales.