Wednesday, October 6, 2021

World Building ~ Julie Lence


Wallpaper Abyss

Readers often ask authors where they get their story ideas, or character names, or the setting of the story. Some authors ‘people watch’ to get ideas for character traits and/or conflicts within their story. Others draw on people they know for character traits and/or experience for conflict. And some borrow from movie, television or literature to put their own spin on a story and give what they feel is a better ending. For myself, I have used my brothers, John Wayne and television characters Nick and Heath Barkley from The Big Valley for character traits. As for the setting of the story, movie and television played an important role in getting the initial visual of a sprawling ranch for my first book. My imagination took over from there, and produced my three series.

World building begins with your hero and heroine. Royce Weston is the hero from my first book. I knew he was a handsome, hunky cowboy, but did he live in the old west or in today’s society? I chose the old west because of my fascination with John Wayne’s cowboy movies. From there, I needed to know where in the old west he lived and what his role was. I chose Colorado, even though at the time I didn’t live there and knew nothing about the state, and I made him wealthy, with a somewhat large family. (This is where my fascination with the Ewings on Dallas lent a hand.) I gave him two brothers, a twin sister (because I always wanted a twin sister) and a father and mother.  For my heroine, I liked the name Paige and decided she was going to have amnesia. But, how did she fit into Royce’s world? Before I figured that part of the story, images sprang to mind and I knew I wanted a barn dance, a saloon, and a wide porch.  

For the barn dance, I needed to know who owned the barn and why the reason for the dance, so I went back to Royce and fine-tuned his profitable horse and cattle ranch (a home and business his father built to hand down to Royce and his brothers) to consist of thousands of acres of land, rolling hills, ponds, and wooded areas butting up against the Rocky Mountains. With the expanse of the ranch completed, I turned to the main part of the ranch and conjured the placement of corrals, barns and bunkhouses. Royce’s home was a comfortable two floors with the wide front porch I wanted, and somewhere in that design, I knew the barn dance wasn’t held at the Weston ranch, which I named Wooded Acres. Someone else was responsible for the dance; a neighboring rancher who hosted the spring round up dance and had a passel of girls to ogle Royce and his brothers. But, the girls couldn’t just ogle the Weston brothers once a year, so a town sprung up, Coyote, Colorado, with one of the founding fathers Royce’s own father. Coyote started as a nowhere place and when the story begins, has a saloon, church, sheriff, mercantile, school and plenty of boardwalks for the girls to chase the brothers.  

Where does Paige fit in to Royce’s world? And who is Paige? Why does she have amnesia? These were questions I had to answer, and after much consideration, Paige hailed from a Kansas farm. Her mother died and her father sold the farm, piled her, her sister and brother into a wagon and lit out to fleece unsuspecting cowboys at local saloons. Royce was Paige’s last mark, and when he confronted her over her role in the scheme, she let him go and her father took his wrath out on her. She ended up at the Weston home, with Royce not believing she ailed from amnesia, but why? And from there, the members in his family became more refined, and his mistrust in women was born.


As with all romances, the story is to have a black moment. Royce and Paige’s black moment centers around Paige’s skills with cards and takes her and Royce to Revolving Point, Texas. A fictitious place, Revolving Point set up another world building opportunity of a town known for its gambling and lawlessness and blossomed into its own series. From there, Jackson Creek was born.  Each series is unique and has its own cast of characters. Some of them I’ve created lengthy backstory. Others are on and off the page quicker than a well-known actor in a cameo appearance. How do I keep everything straight? I have notebooks for each story, where I carry over character description, ages, jobs, and what ranch, farm, or building in town they live on. The hero and heroine have longer descriptions, as I have to know their back story and how they got to where the story begins. I also keep notes on scenery, descriptions of living areas, and in the case of Revolving Point and Jackson Creek, a map detailing the streets of town and where on the street each business is.

World building is fun and a great opportunity to let your imagination run wild. Give it a try and see where you end up.  




Elizabeth Clements said...

I absolutely LOVE your post, Julie, and how you've shared your world-building tips. It's fun to start from nowhere and build a community. I never intended to write a series, but those rascal friends wanted a story of their own and wouldn't stop whispering in my ear until I obeyed. I love the way you shared your process and believe you've helped a lot of writers with your writing experiences.

Julie Lence said...

Hi Elizabeth:
So glad you enjoyed the post. World building is lots of fun for me and my characters. Hugs!

Lianna Hawkins said...

Great tips, Julie. Thanks.

Julie Lence said...

Glad you enjoyed, Lianna. Hugs!