I’ve been thinking a lot about places lately. The setting of the stories I write, stewing over the places I live, and picturing the details of the insane dreams I have. Some of it’s brought on by the restart of my NaNo novel – instead of starting in the thick of battle, I want to start in the thick of normal life.
I think for my purposes, it would work better if there’s some exploration of the city that my main character lives in, before it’s eaten up by giant hell-worms.
As those at the NaNoWriMo TGIO party on saturday can attest to, giant insects are scary.
It isn’t just limited to my fiction, though. My boy has taken to drawing maps as his newest thing, which reminds me of when I used to do the same as a kid. Okay, it reminds me of when I used to do the same two months ago, when I drew up a map for the world of my novel. It’s not the first time I’ve done it, either. After that, we looked at the maps for the landmasses of Skyrim and Oblivion – sadly couldn’t remember where I’d put my Morrowind one – and somehow my wife happened across a second-hand globe for the price of a sandwich. It’s all coming up maps at the moment.
In addition to that, I’ve just finished Assassin’s Creed 3. Story aside (because that’s a rant waiting to happen), I found that exploring 18th century Boston and New York made me think about 19th century Sydney. In the previous games, I knew what to expect from Rome, Florence and Venice – I’d been there, and the structures you’re likely to recognise are still as they were. I couldn’t make that association with the places here, but a burgeoning colony made me think about home in a different way.
There’s also a connection with what I’m writing.
The original NaNo novel had four different timelines, some of which touched across the same locations. Cities changed over time (as cities constantly do), which meant that there was always something new, despite however much old remained. World building is already an exercise in itself without having to account for the ravages of time and progress. I tend to not plan too much detail into my cities, simultaneously going for the macro/micro approach. A huge sprawling street, with the lamp outside the bakery being dimmer than the rest. Big generalised details that convey a tone, with the little touches that ground the experience in something tangible.
The difference with a revisit, there’s more detail to be added, which can be in the form of order or entropy. Things fall apart, get torn down, and new things take their place.
We often give so much time toward the topic of character growth and change, that the world remains static. Sometimes you need to make it fight back and say “I’m a character too, damnit!” Notice me!