World building is the bane and the joy of science fiction and fantasy.
No matter how strange and twisted the characters of mainstream fiction might be, they still move and act in a world that's instantly recognizable to us, because it's the same world that surrounds us. We understand instinctively the way they interact with that world and each other, because they're the same interactions we have ourselves. Beyond the history invented for them by the author, they are just like us, and we instantly understand why they act and react as they do.
Not in science fiction and fantasy (except perhaps in the rare cases when the story is set in the here and now). In that genre, the author must not only invent characters, he or she must also give them an entire new world to move within, a new history, new cultural reflexes. All of that must work together to make a cohesive and reasonable background, no matter how alien it might be.
The characters you finally set loose in that world must be imbued with quirks and ticks and reflexes which, given that culture, history, and world, make sense for both the characters and the readers. And the characters must still be understandable as people, as someone with whom you can share pain and triumph, laughter and tears.
And at the same time, you have to do this wonderful balancing act without it being too obvious that you are indeed juggling, without the reader seeing the duct tape, string and glue that holds the entire stage setting together.
It ain't as easy as it looks, bubba.
Because for DARK WATER'S EMBRACE I have in my possession all that duct tape, string and glue -- in the shape of notes, essays, research and drawings -- I thought I might put together a tour of how a world is built,. I make no claim that this is how ALL worlds should be built. It isn't. It isn't even how I build each new world I create, for each world has demanded a different process. It's only how one author built one particular world.
WARNING: If you go further, you will encounter serious plot spoilers for DARK WATER'S EMBRACE. If that's something you'd rather avoid until after you've read the book (though if you haven't read the book by now, why not?), THEN TURN BACK NOW...
TO MOVE ON, CLICK ON THE "BEGINNINGS" STONE BELOW