“It was a city dreamt in autumn. The street garden trees had shed their leaves and they were scarlet, and they were yellow; and they were the roof tilings, and they were Ana in a dress; they were the roots who split the cobblestones and they were the ivy, on a home, with a window just the size for dreaming,”
-A City Dreamt In Autumn
So, I figured that since I’m in the middle of doing this for my own story, I’d take a moment to talk about the subject of creating lore for your fictional world. In the story I’m currently writing, my protagonist lives in a world where books play a crucial role. Not only are they central to the culture, but they constitute the basis of my world’s ruling structure, laws, and even magic. On a more personal level, they are extremely important to my protagonist, and a particular book even plays a pivotal role in the story itself.
In worldbuilding, something that is often overlooked is the nature of ideas, stories, and histories. A world is understood through their records, their works of fiction and non-fiction. All great ideas, revolutions, theories, and dreams spawn thousands of pieces of writing. In fact, written communication is one of the most fundamental elements found in the creation of a civilization. So why do we so often overlook this in our own worldbuilding?
If there was an event of great importance in your world’s history, surely someone wrote about it. Thse writings would have influenced ideas, manners of speech, common sayings. And there would have been writers who spoke strongly on both sides (though in history, the writings of the winning side are often the easiest to find) and not just in history books, but in songs and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, essays and novels.
For my story, my character has a remarkable memory. No doubt she’ll draw on quotes to try and prove points, and so for me, I’m having to make sure that there are things for her to draw from. Of course, I also don’t want to write a dozen books just for background information, either. Instead, having a list of important subjects and ideas is the way I go about this. Under each subject, event, idea, or place that would have been written about in this world’s history I am listing a few brief summaries of fictional writers and what they wrote, with a few fake quotes so I can remember what kind of voice I was using for that person. Which leads me to my next point. The voice of your fictional writers should be distinct from your own style. Luckily for us, we have thousands of wonderful writers in our own history to draw inspiration from.
Of course, this level of detail isn’t necessary for most stories, but it is still something I believe we should all at least keep in mind while we’re writing and worldbuilding. Whatever time period or type of event you are writing about, there have been similar things in our own history that you can guarantee someone wrote on. Read those things. This includes essays and journalism pieces. There are some great non-fiction writers out there who could shed great insight in on whatever subject you’re writing.
Let me know in the comments below any thoughts you have on the subject, I’m curious. Also, let me know of any moments where you’ve used non-fiction (or something else) as a resource for your story.