Tag Archives: world-building

On reverse world-building

(photo copyright: me; illustration copyright: sister)

I’ve been working on Charlie & Cub lately. Partly because this damn novel needs to be done. Partly because I can’t leave it alone–I can’t leave Charlie’s world alone. But mostly because I gave it to my first readers, and my husband is probably the best reader I’ve ever had. But he also pointed out some major flaws.

I have a character (Sam) who is introduced in Book 3, and is actually pretty important in Book 5, but he isn’t super consistent. He rebels against Charlie in Book 3, and yet falls over himself trying to help her in Book 5. He’s supposed to work as Charlie’s same-age frenemy. But I don’t really know who Sam is. I know what I want him to be, but who he’s turned out to be — a bit of mystery.

I have the Parents. And they are currently a much larger issue than Sam’s faulty character. As an orphan, Charlie has been moved from home to home all her life. Then she arrives at the convent-turned-orphanage run by these awful people. However, these awful people (The Parents) turn out to be more than just awful. They’ve been searching for Charlie. They’re a large part of Book 1 and Book 4 and a small part of Book 5, and all their parts need to be rewritten.

Why?

Because when I wrote my backstory, the Parents turned into something else. They turned into the Parents of Book 4, and those aren’t the Parents of Book 1, who are slightly different again from the Parents of Book 5.

I wrote my backstory after I finished the series.

I wonder if I wrote my backstory before, if I wrote the rules of my universe before, would I be in this trouble? If I had a consistent universe before I started writing, would I be struggling now to make all the elements to line up? Would my strings be all tied together?

I pride myself on being a planner. I don’t write anything without a dot-point plan, with a dot-point for every 500 words. But I also like my plots. I let my plots carry my story. I don’t tend to write character profiles. I don’t world-build — a little because I set all my stories somewhere I know very well. Charlie & Cub is set where I grew up.

Maybe being a planner with a plot-driven story isn’t enough. Reverse world-building is hard, but it’s not impossible.

The impossible bit is rewriting it back into a story that I’m in love with. Because my story is perfect (to me). I get lost every time I start reading this story. I worry about editing it any further without any help because what if I ruin it? It might not be the best story in the world right now, but gosh I’m proud of it.

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