Today’s challenge brings up the topic of Imagined Worlds.
This is a tough one, and yet really easy. How do I mean? Well, there’s just so much that can be said about imaginary worlds… where does one start?
I guess I’ll talk about the world of my upcoming YA Spec Fic novel, currently titled The Water’s Rise.
In this imagined world, there are people who can control the Elements. We’re not really talking Airbender style here, though there may be a few (unintentioned) parallels. These people who can control/utilize the Elements are called Elementals. There are power-hungry people out there who would use these Elementals for their own gain, and use an ancient form of magic to enslave them.
The Water’s Rise is to be the first book in the series, and features a teen girl who is, if you’ll allow the pun, navigating the waters of learning to control her Element: Water. Not only does she have this extraordinary power in her grasp, but she’s also trying to navigate the world of being a teen while she, herself, feels like an outsider. She’s trying to navigate the world of high school, and all that comes with it as far as boys and relationships, friendships, betrayal, as well as difficult classes, strict teachers, and snarky administrators. She’s trying to navigate the world of college applications, standardized testing, and the constant pressure from all around her to “look to her future, push on, go!” All of that while trying to understand this power she’s been given, and avoid being found out by those who would enslave her to use her.
In my opinion, the key to fantastic imagined worlds isn’t in all the little details that you add, though they are quite important. The key—just like with villains—is to have a world that’s relatable. Whether it’s like my book where the world is a typical teen’s world with a dash of magic thrown in, or if it’s a completely different world where dragons exist or aliens or what-have-you… if the reader can’t relate to the world in some way, what’s the point?
Let’s take Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series as an example. This world is a complete fantasy world that does not resemble anything we know today. Magic exists, dream worlds exist, strange beasts and rogue Gods… but despite all of those fantastical things, the world itself is still relatable. There are cities, villages, ruins, outskirts/outlands. There are tribes, governments, a diverse population of people, including different races/ethnicities and religions. The problems within the world—while many still related to the fantastical things like magic and rogue Gods—are also relatable. Bills need to be paid. Standards must be upheld. Propriety is a key component of interactions. There are issues like marital problems, sibling rivalry, racism, gambling addiction, etc. The bulk of the world is relatable which leaves room for the unrelatable (magic, fantasy, etc.).
I’ve only written one book (obviously unpublished, lol) that involved a significant amount of world building, and if I’m being honest, that was tough! It’s probably why I haven’t written others that require that level of world building. It’s difficult to create an entirely new world and still make it relatable… and also remember everything that goes into it. Hell, even Harry Potter—which takes place in our world, and yet… not—has such a significant amount of world building and little things to remember that I am still in utter awe of JK Rowling and how she managed to keep everything straight. This is a large part of the reason that both Robert Jordan and JK Rowling are my two favorite authors. Their ability to not only build a relatable and yet completely magical/fantastical world is a huge part of that. But even beyond that, their ability to put so much detail into their books, even minute things that seem like little passings-by as you’re reading, that end up having even a minorly significant role in later books… it’s absolutely awe-inspiring to me. Just that incredible level of detail… oh, to have that ability!
I’ve kind of gone a bit astray from the topic here, but I expected that would happen as the topic is so wide and diverse. But, even with my little stray, I think I got the point across.