Wednesday, October 2, 2019

World Building

World Building. Creating the environment where your characters live and breathe. Where to begin? How to expand into a series? For some, creating a world is easy. A picture or personal experience spark a scene that broadens into a setting. Others struggle for just that initial spark. But creating a world doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s actually fun, and can take you on a journey you never imagined. Here’s a glimpse of how I developed fictional Revolving Point, Texas.
Notorious outlaw Buck Grayson opens the series. Originally a secondary character in 2 earlier novels, I never envisioned Buck having his own story until he returned to San Francisco at the end of Lady Luck for one specific reason-Suzanna. Questions pricked the back of my mind as to why a man who prefers his own company would seek out a soiled dove whose sass rattles him. Does he have feelings for her? Does she return his feelings and welcome him? Or does she send him away? If she welcomes him, what type of life will they have? And where will they live? They can’t stay at the parlor house where Suzanna works. It’s been sold. And do I really think Suzanna is heroine material? Maybe there’s someone better for Buck.
The more I obsessed over another heroine for Buck, (actually it was her name I wasn’t sold on) the more I delved into his background and his reason for becoming an outlaw. I finally realized Suzanna truly was the only woman for him. (And she could have a nickname.) She’s disturbed him in ways he thought dead and buried. Roused to the surface an emotion he refuses to acknowledge, but before I could press on with a setting, I had to delve deeper into Buck and Suzanna, figure out their fears and how those fears would eventually loosen the words lodged in Buck’s throat.      
Unraveling a partial plot came easy once I knew my characters. Where to set them was a bit more difficult. The story opens with Buck in prison. I had an actual jail in mind, but research proved that jail was not workable with the timeframe of the story. After more research, I happened upon a prison in Texas that fit perfectly with fictional Revolving Point. In Luck of the Draw, I described the town as having a reputation to rival Buck’s and left the layout and d├ęcor to the reader’s mind. But now I needed something more solid.
My actual map
Prior to the opening of the series, a fire swept through Revolving Point, destroying several businesses and homes. Most people fled with only the clothes on their backs. Who remained? And what did the town look like after the fire? I drew an outline of Revolving Point’s main street, with labeled boxes representing the businesses needed for the story and blank areas along the boardwalk where buildings once stood. From there I added side roads and alleyways connecting to the next street over; a tree-lined lane flanked with mostly empty homes. The back yards to the houses along the west side of the street led to an open grassy area and the banks to the Rio Grande; a landscape used throughout the series.
Having a layout of the town helped greatly when it came to plotting Buck’s route when prowling the streets. The reader knew exactly where he was because I was able to stay true to his surroundings with the map I created. The outline was also detrimental when it came to writing the other stories in the series.  Incorporating new characters and where they lived and worked filled in empty boxes and brought Revolving Point to life. From there, I spread east and north to accommodate happy-ever-after endings, filled some of the empty houses with secondary characters, and forged a path deeper into Texas to create a new series. When Revolving Point was originally birthed, I never imagined my sinful little town would become home to future characters; characters who are near and dear to my heart.

Revolving Point, Texas Series:
Zanna’s Outlaw
Lydia’s Gunslinger
Debra’s Bandit
Be Mine, Valentine


Alicia Haney said...

Wow, so many things you as authors have to think about before or while you write your books, plus all the research! You are truly appreciated for your awesome novels. Thank you so much! And Thank you for the pointers. God Bless you. I enjoyed reading this article.

Julie Lence said...

Hi Alicia: Glad you found the post helpful. And yes, it is a handful to keep track or everything, but also fun. Hugs!

Elizabeth Clements said...

I am amazed by the world-building created in books and especially movies of late. Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, the Marvel comics movies, but one of my faves is Avatar. Loved it until the enemy started shooting everything up. The way you described your western world in Texas is beautiful and so real. As writers we need to know where "we're going" so we can make it real for our beloved characters. A map is so helpful. I so enjoyed your post.