With my current novel in progress, I’m in unknown territory. I just finished writing four (backstory) scenes that define the makeup of my character. Those scenes set in stone who he is as a character (before he’s forced to smash that stone to pieces). And also recently I discovered my plot problem and roughly what the plot will be. But I know very little about the world where the plot takes place. And from there, I’m trying to sketching scenes of my characters in that world.

This morning, I sat down with a question: How did Josh and Em [my two main characters] grow up in this world? My goal was to find and sketch different situations that they found themselves. The first line I wrote was “The world is united yet the city people don’t talk with the country folk.” At that moment I realized I knew nothing about the world, so I began to ask questions about it. Three hours later, I had no information about my characters – day spent spinning my wheels.

I found myself on google tangents. image info

And I found myself talking about the language of the world when I’m wasn’t prepared enough to make any valuable point. Research needed to be done first. image info

Here are a few ways I could’ve stayed on task

  1. Today I could’ve started out with a question that I could directly answer without any research. Something simpler: Who are the people who live off-the-grid? What’s their culture like? Answering this would give me a better visual of the world that I’m creating, which would make it easier to see my characters in that world.
  2. I spent a lot of time trying to answer questions that require research. For example, I wanted to know what is the difference between how someone on the right answers a question vs someone on the left. I should’ve saw that in order to produce a credible answer, I needed real examples and I needed to understand today’s political jargon. I wasn’t ready for that. So I should’ve stored this and moved on.
  3. Here’s my favorite solution: I write something true about the world. “The world is united yet the city people don’t talk with the country folk.” Then I ask, how does that affect Josh’s life? I don’t need crazy research to answer that. And by answering it, I learn about the world. This simultaneously builds character and it building the world.

I’m in new territory, at a stage with my book that requires research in order to hone in on my world. Previously creating my character simply came from my own experience and learnings as a struggling human who’s guessing his way through life. Now to design a world for that man, I need good specific data and stories to use. And I want that while I create sketches of my character interacting in that world.