Pat here: As readers, we probably started talking of world building in fantasy, where the monsters had to have their own society, their own faults and strengths, and the setting had to make them real.
But now, as series become more popular in other genres, we’re all engaging in some lengthy world building. When I first started writing about the Magical Malcolms about ten years ago, I was simply creating a world of characters with special psychic abilities. Yes, the era was Georgian, but the setting wasn’t as important as how the characters felt about being weird in a normal world.
About the same time, Jayne Ann Krentz started mixing her Arcane Society paranormal romances into her historical world. JR Ward turned vampires into contemporary romance, and suddenly, any kind of series was hot and could branch off in any direction as long as the reader could buy into the richly-created worlds they built.
I’ll admit, I love the world building, but it’s not easy when limited by history—or a related series.
Right now, I’m attempting to build an 1830 Malcolm and Ives generation. Their names have changed over the past century, but these are aristocrats vested in their homes and land. The titled characters, at least, can’t stray far. But now the Ives London home built off St. James Square in the Georgian era is old and crowded in between new houses and businesses. I’ve been having entirely too much fun exploring the British history site telling what happened to each house in the area.
Go ahead, click a street. The detail on the history, what houses stood where, what those houses looked like and who lived in them is amazing. I, of course, discarded everything but the kind of buildings I might find off the main thoroughfares. Just trying to get St James Park correct for 1830 gave me enough headaches.
Since there are no photographs from 1830, for obvious reasons, I can only peruse drawings, but if you look at photo montages from the Victorian era, it’s obvious that the monuments we all know and love today didn’t look that much different back then. We just need to adjust our heads to carriages and horses.
This is all research we’ve always done in historical romance, but to generate real world-building, we need to develop characters and settings, and in my case, the psychic elements, that connect through a large number of books. Readers need to see the moldy old hall uninhabited by women for decades gradually transform as the various characters marry and women move in. The house off St. James must transform from a shabby rental into the home of a wealthy marquess. The surly character in Book One must develop reasons for his surliness over the course of the series and have it resolved in his own story. A villain from Book One must get his come-uppance in some book down the line.
What is it you most enjoy in reading series—seeing the characters develop? Watching how previous characters are doing? Or do you really dig the setting? What series are you currently following and why?
And for any of you who haven't been by my website lately, I'm giving away a starter library of free books. Stop by and poke around, if you have time!