World building, whether your characters live in the 21st Century or the 30th, on Earth or some undiscovered planet, can help make or break a story. Actually, it’s an integral part of characterization. What kind of character lives in a world decimated by war? Where there are no chidren? No disease? No sex? What happens when this character finds himself on Earth? Obviously, the more we know about the worlds of our characters, the more developed, and multi-faceted these characters will be.
Right now, I’m living in three very different worlds. “Dark Sentinels” allows me to focus on my love for animals. In this world, super weres battle misguided, greedy forces. In “Alerians – Dark Progeny,” the descendants of Nephilim find themselves hungering for human women despite their edict to obey the “One God,” and “Children of Cain” is about the imaginary descendants of the Biblical Cain, indentured assassins doing penance for the sins of their ancestor – the first recorded murderer. So, these are the questions I developed answers to as my worlds came alive.
1. Is the story set on Earth? If so, when and where?
2. Did the hero/heroine originate on Earth? If so, when? For what purpose? If not, where? How did they get here? Why did they come? Different dimension? Shadow world? Warriors, explorers, stranded, brought as chidren, slaves, exiled, escapees?
3. Indigenous diseases? Immunity?
4. Special trades or abilities?
5. How do they look? Of course, in paranormal romance, they have to be attractive in some way, and sexually compatible with humans, but fantasy and sci-fi allow quite a bit more wiggle room.
6. What’s their governing body like? Is there one? Caste system, dictatorship, democracy, a system unknown to us?
7. Everyday life necessities, i.e., how do they eat? How often do they eat? When and what do they eat? Transportation?
8. What elements are indigenous to their world? Water, fire, earth, wind/air, magic, other (use your imagination)?
9. What’s the ratio of men to women?
10. What are their mating rituals? Dating, weddings, betrothals, arranged marriages, etc.?
11. How do they reproduce? Gestation period? Dominant DNA?
12. What are their bodily rhythms? Do they sleep? If so, when and how long?
13. What is their history of mating with humans? Has it happened before? What was the outcome? What are the attitudes about these matings?
14. Is their existence common knowledge? Do just a few know about them? Do they go to great lengths to keep their existence secret?
15. Do they have problems reproducing? For instance, they might have problems reproducing with their females, but human women can bear their offspring.
16. Are they trying to avoid impending extinction? War? Persecution?
17. How long have they been here?
18. How long have they known about humans?
19. Do they understand human ways? Language? Customs? If so, how did they learn?
20. Who are the antagonists? Cultural, racial, or social mores? Groups or individuals who want to take something from them? Groups or individuals who fear or hate them because of past events (real or perceived)?
21. Are they a new species or mutation?
Obviously, this list is far from conclusive, but it’s a start. There’s no need to burden readers with the answers to all of these questions, but the answers still help shape our characters as we submerge ourselves in their worlds. Nearly every one of these questions can be a story starter, an entire world built around it. The beauty of world building is license for the creative mind to run wild. Enjoy. Nearly every rule has an exception J