(Apologies: I’ve been a bit scattered lately. I blame the heat, humidity, and getting a kid off to kindergarten for his first “real” school experience.)
I think I’ve visited this subject before, but we change and evolve. So, if I have covered it before, we’ll circle around back to the topic. If I haven’t, then no worries, this is new.
The last few days, as I’ve wrapped up major notes on more than a few projects, I’ve thought about why I do it. After all, making up fictional worlds really seems kinda silly when you sit down and think about it. At least on the surface.
A bit deeper, I think it gives us a place to play with and explore ideas in safety. We can toy with different religious, political, philosophical, economic, and other concepts in an environment where they can do no harm. It doesn’t matter if the concept leads to dystopia or whatnot, because there are no real lives involved.
On another hand, playing with those very same ideas can tell us a great deal about our own world.
Previously, I found that I started a world by thinking of a specific place and then expanding outward in ever widening circles. Lately, I’ve been starting with a magic system, then building a world for the system to exist in. Usually that means shaped by the laws of magic, but not always.
This isn’t about my process, though. It’s supposed to be about the why.
Building worlds gets ideas out of my head. Sometimes they simply pop up. Other times they’re inspired by really great fiction. Occasionally, they’re inspired by the “I can do better than that” reaction.
I’ve been doing it for a long time, relatively seriously for 20+ years. Sporadically for 30+ years, thanks to my cousins who introduced me to D&D (back in the original red box, Basic days).
I kind of feel like those are cop outs to a degree, though. They’re true, obviously. And are akin to my reasons for writing. I can’t imagine not doing it. But, they still seem rather simplistic in a way.
The last few weeks, I’ve realized there’s something comforting about worldbuilding.
I know that, back when I had a laptop, I would start worldbuilding when I was sick. I’d be sitting there propped up in bed, high on decongestants, and I’d start putting elements together. I haven’t done that as much lately, since my laptop died and I went back to a desktop, but occasionally with the tablet it works.
I also turn to worldbuilding when I’m in a bad “head space”. When things feel like they’ve entirely gone wrong, when I wonder what I’m doing and why, all those sort of things, I find that I turn to creating fictional worlds. Often they’re quickly slapped together, but they’re something. And they often reflect what I’m thinking about, usually something idealized or idyllic, or that I’m experiencing frustration with in life. I suspect this reason, in particular, helped me get through grad school, notably the doctorate. We used to half-joke back in those days that you weren’t really in a doctoral program unless you asked yourself, “Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I here?” at least once . . . every couple weeks. I suspect worldbuilding and writing fiction, as bad as the results were, helped.