One of the fun aspects of writing any story is creating the world or universe your characters live in. For example, in “Sensu Learns a Lesson”, while I did not go in-depth into the politics and players of this story, I had to think about a universe that was full of aliens and political intrigue. Also, I made a beginning into the living and social structures of the Altharians, they lived underground and looked like transparent blue slugs. The Altharians live in underground structures carved out over millennia by the passage of their ancestors. They are master spies (their society is completely focused on spying) because of their ability to shape change. I also began to create a class structure through the mention of royal blood. If I ever manage to expand this story, I will have to vigorously expand on all these choices.
Another example comes from my story “Lepidoptera” coming up next month. By the way, for anyone that does not know, lepidoptera is the order name for butterflies (technically moths and butterflies). I began the world by creating a society of elves similar to Tad William’s Sithi in the series “Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow”. I wanted that mix of age, wisdom, and magic which his Sithi had. I also wanted to give the sense that when you entered the lands of my Sindains, you entered a world separate from the rest of the world. In their lands, the forests move and living spaces are made from the living plants around them. When Sindains enter the Woods of Calling, the outside world disappears and time runs differently. Basically, they live constantly with magic.
My final example comes from my story “Sanity”. In this story I focused on a single world with lots of political intrigue between kingdoms and a powerful outside race that dabbles in this plotting for their own unfathomable reasons. All the players know something about this race, but none have hard evidence of their goals or methods of achieving them only that they are powerful. The race is non human, which leaves you wandering if they are part of the world or come from another. The world in general is a metaphor for our political nature of playing for power where each dog thinks they are at the peak until some bigger dog takes them down.
Half the fun of writing a story is deciding what the underling facts of the universe is then seeing how these affect the interactions of the characters. An example of world building that affects the actions of the characters is Brandon Sanderson’s Mist Born novels. The principals set down for the universe are consistent and interesting. Also, the world is not static as his new books in the series show, meaning that he introduces growth in the society with the introduction of technology. However, the underlying magic still exists. Mr. Sanderson seems to enjoy seeing how the invention of technology changes how society looks at those with magic. How fun is that?