(A table of contents will become available once there are three posts in this series. I will reblog it when it becomes accessible and again when it is complete. It will be kept updated throughout the series. This series will remain open for additional posts.)
Part Two: Intuition and Logic
World building is all about making a “convincing fictional world,” according to our definition from Part One. It must look real, and more importantly, it must feel real. I will say this with as much conviction as text on a website can: Poor world building will kill a story more than a poor plot, poor characters, or poor language. There are plenty of books out there with terrible plots but their worlds are so convincing, so true, so interesting that we continue to read them despite laughing at the rest of the ridiculousness. Achieving that convincing world comes by following intuition and logic.
Intuition: direct perception independent of any reasoning process; pure, untaught, non-inferential knowledge. (x)
A more colloquial way of defining intuition is as “a gut feeling.” There’s no tangible reason for you to believe, but you simply know, and it feels right. Embracing this human ability is crucial to the beginning steps of world building. It’s what gives you your very first ideas about how something will work. It will be your guide to piecing together the logic of the world.
Embracing intuition follows your dream. You start out with an idea, but that idea on its own isn’t worth anything yet. The steps following that initial conception are crucial. Follow your gut. You can’t create a world until you have a couple of points to string together. With your initial idea, put it in context of an environment. Think about it like a painting or a still shot from a movie: What’s around it? What are people doing? That initial image will give you a place to grow your logic from.
Logic: the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference; reason or sound judgement; convincing forcefulness; inexorable truth or persuasiveness. (x)
The principle of cause and effect is a fact of life. If you run over a squirrel, it will die. If the atmosphere acts in certain, specific ways, a tornado will occur. If you throw a ball at a wall, it will bounce. This is also true for world building. There are some things you can consider when creating details that will come about because of other details. If your environment is acidic, agriculture will not be your main method of food-gathering and subsistence. If they’re not farming, they’ll be doing something else.
Intuition is about the gut feeling. The logic of writing is where you have to know something that’s based on science. To begin your world’s development, you need to start following the trail. Think of world building as a spider’s web. Each individual thread leads to another, which branches off to meet with others, that branch off and meet with still more; sometimes they even connect back to ones before or even themselves. World building is a bit like that. The logic is the thread that inevitably leads to another factor which leads to another factor which may influence a previous factor but definitely connects to another factor. It’s this nest that makes things difficult, but it’s also what makes your intuition so important.
Some things logically lead to others. A certain amount of people in a nation or city will naturally/logically lend itself to a couple of options for leadership. Your intuition, and that mental image of your world, is what leads you to make the choice between those couple of options. World building is as much about you and your vision as it is about the science of the world. Harnessing the ability to follow the threads to their next logical step and then being able to intuitively make a decision based on what feels right for your culture, religion, or world is what brings all of it together into something convincing. Without even one of these two ideals, your world will begin to feel less and less real, a bit like someone’s thrown things together instead of meticulously thinking about them and why they go together.
Next up: Anthropology for writers, and putting logic and intuition to use.