05 January 2015

The Not-So-Simple Things in Life

I was perusing an writer Yahoo group I’m a member of, and an author referenced this article. The article includes a lot of good writing stuff—for lack of a better word—but one part stood out for me.

You see, I write YA science fiction and fantasy. Building a world is a daunting task akin to running a marathon or simply running up the stairs with a load of laundry. Others find it a huge bag of fun. I grumble at the bag and kick it out of my way a lot. I just want to tell my story!

Here is the bit from the article that may actually help me in my ongoing problem with world-building.

“Much of my work involves writing about scenes set far in the future or deep in the past. How to immerse oneself in the moment-to-moment nature of a time and place you’ve never personally experienced—and perhaps cannot?

How to immerse oneself in the moment-to-moment nature of a time and place you’ve never personally experienced?

Well, I would put a question to you. What’s the difference between you and your great great great-grandfather? What makes you different?

I think the answer is this: What you take for granted.”

When I read that I was like, whoa. Just like that. Whoa.

Because it hurt my head! It’s so simple, but not.

Let’s take the main character of my current work in progress and a teenage girl of today who lives in a comfortable family in the U.S.A. And let’s limit it to just a few categories: Shelter, food, communications, education and safety. Let’s call the girl in our world Christina and the character in my story Wendy.


Christina-A house with climate control, running water and electricity. I’d have to say that most (but not all) teenage girls will take this for granted.

Wendy-Lives in a leaky cabin in the mountains, both running water and electricity are possible, but rely on old machinery that breaks down a lot and the amount of water in the nearby river. Climate control is called a fire.


Christina-Grocery stores. There are dozens around and there is always food in the pantry. If she is in the mood for something else, she goes to the store and buys it.

Wendy-A disease has poisoned most of the food on the planet, and it is spreading. Food is scarce, and you have to have enough discipline to not eat the bad stuff, or you’ll die.


Christina-Phones, cell phones, internet, the antiquated (but still useful) postal service.

Wendy-If you want to talk to someone, you have to walk to them and talk. And try not to get killed along the way.


Christina-Is expected to go to school and receive an education. But it’s not that hard, because Google knows everything. Christina gets to learn to cook from her mom or a friend, and is always trying out new recipes that she finds on the web.

Wendy-Learns what she needs to know from those around her. Most lessons include staying alive, fighting and figuring out how to keep the generators working. She isn’t allowed into the kitchen area because she burns everything, and they don’t have the food to spare.


Christina-Knows what areas to avoid after dark, always has her cell phone on her and can change a flat tire. She knows how to use a gun, but doesn’t have one. She took some self defense classes once.

Wendy-Has to be on guard at all times. The world is not safe. Strangers are dangerous. People will do anything for a little bit of food. She learned to fight when she was six years old, and she’s used it every week of her life.

I’ve never done a comparison like that before. It’s kind of fun! I’m going to have to put this little exercise on my list of things to do before I actually start a story. World building might be a little less horrible now.

But I’m not holding my breath.

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