Sunday, February 5, 2012

World building and tense situations - A guest post by D Kai Wilson-Viola


World building is a subject I'm extremely interested in.  When writing series of books, it becomes vital to get the details right.  It's also one of the hardest things to do, especially when things get tense in the story.  That's when having your facts straight matters the most.

I've invited fellow Indie Author D Kai Wilson-Viola to write a guest blog and she presented me with an exceptional piece.

World building and tense situations
My stories always start with some sort of major problem.  Whether that’s where they actually start once they’ve been edited and put together is a different story, but that’s where everything starts for me.
Which, to be honest, makes world building both a bit difficult, and a lot liberating.
My first novel is out on the 12th of February, and is the first in upwards of 50 novels set in the universe I’ve built around my detective and his two friends.  So, John asked me to come talk ‘world building’ and give some tips on how I manage it all.  And I’ve got three absolutely amazing tips to share.
World building so you’re not changing canon
Though, before I go there, I’d better explain canon.  I don’t mean the things firing balls of lead at castles or pirate ships – I mean canon.  That sacred bible of what is – and isn’t – in your world.  It is, as far as I can tell, something I picked up in my fan fiction days – the idea that something could be canon or non-canon.  And the idea that if you screw up your own canon, your most obsessive fans (and we all get them) can call you on it, and complain.  So, having your own world building straight is a must.  It’s also essential for other reasons – if you’re not sure of your own world, others will struggle, especially when consistency will give you the chance to really use the world around the characters, for or against them.  Basically, your world could almost be its own character, if you use it right.  With that in mind though, I’ve got three tips.
1)      Keep your own bible – I use software to track mine, but before I discovered the items that I use (there’s two – a wiki/database based piece and Liquid Story Binder, which is a kind of folio system for writers), I had folders and key sheets.  It might feel like hard work, but if you’re building a world that has persistence, you need to track scars, and dates and where everything goes.  Elliot Peters, my main character goes from being pretty much unscarred to picking up several over the course of four books, and I have to remember whether he’s got them or not by (x) point.  The easiest way to do so is to keep a timeline, with a master sheet that documents scars.  I’ve found the front/back images that are here work well - but you might have other ideas.  Every three books, I update that, especially if I’ve stopped writing in the period beforehand, and ensure that anything I’ve finalised is included.
2)      Update regularly – It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tiny details of keeping the ‘bible’ updated for your world, but if you don’t do maintenance, it’s kinda like tax receipts – it’ll take forever, and you’ll hate it.  I update mine once a week when doing ‘other paperwork’ like billing, so it’s kind of part of my maintenance tasks.  If your world is consistent, you’ll need to do it less, and eventually, you’ll only need to keep track of the changes.
3)      Little things matter too – even in tense situations, if you can give a ‘call back’ to something that was mentioned in another book, you show not only mastery but immersion in your own universe, which, in turn leads readers to trust you.  And reader trust is what invests them in books more than the most skilful writing ever can.  If there’s no trust there, no matter how beautiful your writing, readers will resist and you’ll be stuck with a perfectly crafted book that no one cares about enough to engage with.
Once you’ve got the basics of world building down, you’ll find it much easier to do it again and again – so even if you finish up one series, you can use what you’ve learned to build your next world and your next.  And then, when you toss them in at the deep end, you know how deep and where the escape hatch is.

D Kai Wilson-Viola’s debut novel, Glass Block (  is due out February 12th.  A copywriter and editor by trade, she’s been serving the indie community as an advisor for years.  You can follow Kai on Facebook (, Twitter (, at her own blog ( or at Author Central after February 12th.

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