An Awesome World-Building Activity for Novelists and Writers! (#WIPWorldBuilders)

In a few weeks, I’ll officially start putting words to paper (or screen) in the creation of a new and exciting story. A character driven novel I’ve been concocting in my mind for almost two years, circulating the life of a reluctant demigod chosen by the frightening warrior Gods of the Norse pantheon. He’s an ordinary guy, that feels ostracised from the world around him. He is well and truly depressed, moody, cynical, and yet kind hearted, hopeful, and honest. He’s real, and multifaceted, as all characters should be.

I don’t want to give away too much too fast and spoil the excitement for myself and all who are coming along with me on this journey, but I stumbled upon an amazing community over on twitter, and their #WIPWorldBuilders tag has me all inspired. Being new to twitter, and thus new to this excellent exercise in world building, this post is going to go back through the month and answer each of the thought provoking questions so far.

To anyone building a novel, I’d recommend doing the same. The reader doesn’t need to know everything about the world your novel is set in, but you do, and this community offers lots of decent questions you may not ask yourself. If you’d like to make a compilation post like this one, please link to this post so I get a ping back! It’d be great to read all about other people’s worlds!

Right, let’s get on with this!

1: Introduce yourself and your WIP

Hi all, I’m Gary, a multi-genre author with a love for honest, character driven stories. Over the past few years I took a hiatus from my writing career—while I dealt with depression, separation, and family business expansion—and now am back writing flash fiction, short stories, and novels.

Official work on my first novel starts in November. It circulates around the life of twenty-something Danny, a young man who’s always been a little different. He has a gravity to him, a huge potential others cant miss. He’s a born leader, insightful: he says all the right things at all the right times to all the people that need to hear them. He has a gift to retain a lot of information, and turn his hand to multiple tasks without much teaching. Despite all this, he feels trapped, depressed, wasted.

On top of all this, he’s a demigod. Chosen, if you like, by the old gods of the Norse pantheon. They never leave him alone, haunting his life through frightening dreams and unnerving encounters. They try to steer him, but his hands are tied. He cant meet their expectations. He feels as if they simply torture him, over and over again, until he finally understands the message they’re sending. The novel is a dark story of internal struggle and transformation.

2: Do people believe in an afterlife?

Some people do, alongside various split beliefs in the metaphysical/supernatural. Feeling a natural pull to the old gods and ways of paganism, Danny has built up a small group of friends that are interested in tapping into those forces—though he is clearly quite different from the rest of them. I won’t tell you how… that would spoil a great scene.

3: Is there a holiday dedicated to honouring the dead?

Of course, Halloween! Though Danny and his friends celebrate this time as Samhain with other Pagans. Danny doesn’t put himself in the same category as pagans, new-age, neo-pagan, or any other modernised faith system based on ancient tradition. He’s not sure what his faith is. He calls it his Danny-ism. His theory of everything. His way of seeing things that he cant quite master putting into words, and even if he could, would likely cause confusion.

4: Do people bury the dead? If not, where are they stored?

People do bury the dead, and they also cremate them. The world I’m building here is mainly the world we live in, though the perspective we see it from offers a different side to it. The more interconnected, spiritual side, where Gods torment men and make bargains with them. Where power can be directed toward a goal through strong will and vision.

5:What are the common causes of death in your world?

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke. These things are like a plague. Danny sympathises with the world around him, but he sees a harsh truth that others may or may not respect. They are enslaved to their own comforts. Killing themselves slowly through their lifestyles. Danny is comfortable with (though resentful of) his mortality, and accepts that his problems are a result of his poor lifestyle choices, and his own eventual death will come as a result of those choices. That doesn’t mean everybody sees things in the same way.

6: How are the organs of the dead prepared? Or are they left in the body?

If people are donors, their organs go on to support furthering the life of others that need those organs. If not, the body is buried or cremated with all organs intact. Of course, there are weird cooky cults that like to use human organs in rituals and the like…

7: What happens to the belongings of the dead?

Some are buried with them, if they hold particular sentimental value. Others are distributed through family members, normally via a rushed open house, where everyone from estranged children to third-cousins show up and take whatever they can get their hands on, in a first-come-first-serve frenzy. Nothing like death to show the living’s true colours.

8: Are there organ thieves or body snatchers in your world?

Seriously, you’ve prompted this again? Right, let’s clear this up… If there is a frighteningly dangerous coven that unwittingly enact the work of an ACTUAL demigod with a few screws loose, and they take bodies and use organs as ritualistic items, I don’t know about it. And Danny definetly isn’t going to run into them… 🤥🤫

9: How are dead pets cared for?

Some bury them in the garden, others get them cremated and keep their ashes in urns. Some particular weirdos ask for some ashes put aside to do various bizarre things with… like eat inside a sandwhich. The love of pets does strange things to humans.

10: Is anyone immortal in your world?

I’ve answered this one on Twitter already, and the basic gist of it is, nobody is really sure whether or not even the Gods are immortal. Ragnarok does tell of their death, but by human standards, they definitely aren’t mortal. Danny looks pretty good for 27, has never broke a bone in his life despite his antics, but he’s mortal for sure. Painfully so. He attributes his various aches, pains, and problems, to being trapped inside a mortal body. It’s almost as if his soul wants to burst out of it.

11: Do people believe the dead can return either as a spirit or physically?

Many people do believe in spirits to some extent, others claim they don’t but have had a few experiences, and others still are dead against the idea. That said, the idea of spiritual intervention is unsettling for most. Danny has every reason to believe himself, but casually brushes it off as a non-thing. He’s not bothered by it.

12: It’s Friday, share and follow 3 other world builders!

World building is a fun and exciting activity for any novelist or writer. It’s also fun to watch others in the process, and learn about the world they are creating. I’ll post a few links to fellow world-builder’s over on my twitter account, and I highly recommend you check them out!

13: Are premature burials common in your world?

Outside of stuntmen and cruel torturous methods of execution, perhaps employed by disgruntled mobsters, no. It’s unlikely that anybody would end up buried alive by mistake.

Well, that’s it. I’d LOVE to carry on and answer each of the questions, but I think it would be unfair on the community. I will be carrying this on day-by-day on my twitter feed, now that I’ve caught up, so head over there and follow me! Failing that, I think it’d be fun to do this again for the blog at the end of October. It’s a dark, gritty story, and it’s refreshing to run through an exercise like this outside the tone of the novel.

Guys, this was fun and thought provoking! I’d highly recommend you complete the same exercise. And if you do, please, please link to this post so that I get a ping back. I would love to hear about the world you’re building for your novel!

So what do you think, shall I post another post like this one at the end of the month, or keep content like this solely on twitter? Have you a system of world-building, or inspired to start? Let me know in the comments!

Got five minutes for some quick online reads? Try these:

Colony 81- Quick Online Reads

The Fury Of The Godless- Quick Online Reads

The Man In The Hat- Quick Online Reads

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About Gary Holdaway

A multi genre author of short stories and novels, writing a curious mix of quick online reads and lifestyle posts.

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