With the release of FRACTURED STATE less than a month away, I thought I’d give readers and fans a look behind the scenes at the creation of the near future, dystopian world supporting the story. As most of you know, I spend a considerable amount of time envisioning and creating the worlds behind my fiction. The process is time consuming, and if left unchecked, can take on a life of its own. I know this from experience. When I started to create the world for my first novel, The Jakarta Pandemic, I reached a point, long into the early stages of development, where I asked myself: “When are you going to actually start writing the story?” I didn’t have an answer, which in itself was my answer. It was time to quit researching the world, describing characters on notepads, creating maps, developing timelines—AND TIME TO GET DOWN TO BUSINESS. I had spent months world building, when I could and should have been writing.
With that lesson SORT OF learned—a few times, I’ve developed a rough world-building process that gets me started and keeps me on the right track.
1.) Creating a world to support a series requires me to create a ALTERNATE HISTORY, or in the case of Fractured State, a FUTURE set 20 years from today. Either way, I start out with a TIMELINE OF EVENTS. This is outside of the story plot. For the Fractured State series, I started in 2016 and envisioned the world, national, state and personal-level events that would land the reader on page one. As you can see, this sheet has endured coffee and beer stains, many on-the-fly changes and an accidental “throw away” since I created it in early 2015. It rarely leaves my side while I’m writing.
2.) For the kind of deep background and expansive geographical reach involved in writing a series like Fractured State, I find the use of MAPS to be invaluable. I create them throughout the entire process, starting with big picture world building maps down to individual scene orientation maps. Every complex, action oriented scene likely originated with a sketch.
3.) Whether based in the past, present or future, I also create lists and descriptions of the organizations involved in the story. Past and present is easy…a few clicks on Google and you have a nice organizational chart of the CIA. Future requires a little more work. In Fractured State, I envisioned San Diego County as an entity that effectively absorbed every municipality throughout the current county, providing town administration, resource management, leadership and police functions for the entire geography. San Diego County Police Department (SDCPD) officers patrol the streets of Chula Vista, CA, south of San Diego, just he same as the streets of Carlsbad, CA—40 miles away.
In Fractured State, Nathan Fisher, the story’s main character, works as a water reclamation engineer at the San Diego Water Reclamation Authority, an entity that does not exist today. Since water reclamation is a critical part of Californian’s lives in my story, I gave it an organization separate, but subordinate to the existing Water Authority. Of course, in the resource stressed world of Fractured State, both authorities serve under the San Diego County Resource Authority. Yeah, I have fun with this stuff. Sorry to put you to sleep!
4.) Throughout the creation of the TIMELINE, MAPS and boring ORGANIZATIONS, I’m constantly researching topics related to the big picture to generate new ideas, validate previously envisioned plot points or expand the story.
For Fractured State, I spent a lot of time studying WATER sources in California, the rest of the southwest and the Great Plains. While the events in my story are purely fictional, the historic, ongoing drought in California and the U.S. Southwest is REAL. Frighteningly real. California’s current drought started me on the path to writing this series. The more I researched, the more I knew I had the background for an incredible story. What if the drought continued for another 20 years like many climatologists agree is possible? AND what if the effects of the drought were intensified by corrupt group of greedy industrialists and enforced by a ruthless mercenary army on their payroll? Secession? Mayhem? All of the above.
Check out some of the original bookmarked links that I used to get a feel for the drought issues facing California and the nation. It’s scary stuff. All of it. I just listed them as LINK. Click on any or all to give yourself a fright.