Worldbuilding? What’s That?

Try as I might, it seems as if this year’s NaNo novel won’t break away from my usual pattern of story development. I wanted to set my characters in an interesting and realistic world that lies outside their personal lives. But that clearly isn’t going to happen. It’s not that I’m incapable of constructing such a world. I know I could do it, but the very idea makes me cringe. It would be an exercise in excruciating boredom.

I wonder if that has anything at all to do with why all my stories put the characters in rather circumscribed settings. But the truth is that I’m interested in my characters’ world only insofar as it affects their lives. I had intended to go into the social and economic development of the penal system that’s at the center of the novel. But I can see now that I thought it was necessary if I was going to crank out 50,000 words. I had only two clearly thought out characters when I started, and it seemed that if I didn’t bring in more of the outside world, I wouldn’t have enough for more than a longish story.

Now that I have five characters’ stories to work with, building their world looks like an unnecessary and annoying obstacle. I need enough of a world to give them context, to avoid the impression of talking heads in a void. Any more would actually distract (me and possible readers) from what I hope to achieve.

It isn’t what I planned, but it’s a step forward. Realizing that the pattern started with last year’s NaNo novel and has continued since, is also a big step.

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