Sunday, February 4, 2018

world building is fun

A few years ago, my wife was reading a rough draft of my book The Inter-Terrestrial and noticed something.  She pointed to a scene where an alien character proposes to his girlfriend.  It was at the end of a chapter.  The next chapter cuts to a different part of the story, and when we get back to his alien and his wife, they are already married.  She pointed out that I had missed a golden opportunity to show what a wedding on an alien planet is like.  I could have the fun of coming up with something really weird, which would also be fun for the reader.  She was absolutely right.  I wrote a wedding scene where the completely nude bridal party sprays the intestinal fluid of an animal on the couple, causing the bride's gown to turn white, signifying their marriage.  And the flow of the book is better for it.  Thanks to all that grease.

Because when you have a story that takes place in a fictional place, it is fun to make up the world surrounding your characters.  Even if the story takes place on Earth, but in a fictional city, you can make up names of landmarks, coffee shops, other businesses in such a way that you can throw in jokes or just personal touches.  (Burger Cave, D's Donuts etc.)  Hammer City in my book Working-Class Superheroes has a section called Manville, named for the Rhode Island town I grew up in.  And with an alien planet, you really have the opportunity to go out there with your ideas and humor.

Another part of The Inter-Terrestrial had my main character talking to a classmate of his who was an athlete.  Of course, since this was alien, I had to come up with what kinds of sports are played on his home planet.  I spent two paragraphs explaining this sport where players with curved (jai lai?) sticks toss around a poisonous insect, trying to get it into a soccer-sized goal without it biting them (or the other team stealing it).  This game, called nar-nar, had nothing to do with the rest of the story, it was just me explaining what this sporty character was up to.  But I had so much fun writing it, as I did with the greasy wedding scene earlier, that I wanted to write a whole story about this game.

So, if I ever come up with something that I want to say about professional sports, I am going to use nar-nar as the focal point.  Maybe it's about the gambling, the way injuries (from those poisonous insects) are treated by the team owners or about an older player who feels underappreciated because he can't do what he used to.  Or something else.  I haven't figured out the details yet.  But it's great how such a small section of the story can get your creative juices flowing.

For more creativity, check out Turtle Rocket Books.