Monday, August 15, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: WORLD-BUILDING FROM THE INSIDE OUT, by Janeen Ippolito

Every once in a while, a book comes along that you know you're going to re-read multiple times because it's so useful and what it covers is an area where you need to keep going back and refreshing what you've learned.

This is especially true and priceless when it comes to some writing books.

WORLD-BUILDING FROM THE INSIDE OUT is one of those books. Honestly, it's common sense, but something a lot of writers (guilty!) don't think about until we run into a problem. Usually about halfway through the 2nd book in a series, or the 8th in a series we didn't realize was going to be a series until we got one of those brainstorms of, "Hey, if I change this name and this relationship and tweak this bit of history, Book A is pre-history to Book C, and they both tie into Book B, which influences what happens in Book D ..." Get the picture?

God can wing it when it comes to building worlds (because face it, He's GOD and He isn't restricted by fiddly little things like time!), but writers shouldn't. Dang, I wish I had run into Janeen a lot earlier and she had made this book available like 20+ years ago. It would have saved me a lot of contradictions and headaches trying to make history and details and geography and other fiddly details actually line up and behave, between one book and another. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

The book tackles topics that are absolutely necessary, and some that you don't think about until draft 4, when you're wondering what the hero's childhood was like, because you need something in his background to explain why he blew up over something that his friends think is trivial, but the explosion is a necessary plot point. Know what I mean? Yeah, you've been there. This is all common sense, but so many of us don't think about planning these details out ahead of time. Kind of like knowing a quote you want to use in some climactic scene, but you don't get it right and you don't realize it until your editor sends the book back to you with the quote marked in red highlighter and a note that says, "This ain't right!" And then because the quote was so mangled, you need to rewrite the whole scene. If you had done some research and checked it ahead of time, you wouldn't have that problem, would you?

Do the work ahead of time, and your world will fall smoothly into place and probably help with a lot of minor plots points at the same time. Chapters deal with: Religion, Government, Societal Structure, Art/Media, Technology, Naming, Food, Appearance and Location, with appendices covering Health and Medicine, Military, and Education.

The great thing about this world-building book is that it has an accompanying WORKBOOK. She removes even more of the headache and hassle by organizing the questions you need to ask yourself about the society you're putting together, and giving you space to brainstorm and then record it all. Organization! What a revolutionary concept. (Well, for ME, anyway...) I received both books in PDF, which made it easy to print out the workbook and put in a ringbinder, to fill in as I go through the process, and then keep for future reference.

You can get the book online, or go directly to Janeen's website for more information and resources: Or Uncommon Universes Press, the publisher:

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