BALANCING THE EQUATION

Okay, I’ve written about the crazy way I plot novels. But there is another side to the process. I have to have a framework in which to place the wild ideas and inspired bits. To work, the equation that includes dreams, impressions, and sudden inspirations has to be balanced with research, world building, and character development.

I have a good-sized library in my own home, with lots of reference works, but now I do most of my research online. As an example, for the YA fantasy novel I’m currently writing, I had to research cobras–their habits, diet, characteristics, and how dangerous they are. I save quite a volume of material in a file that I can refer to while I’m writing. Of course I don’t use it all, but I have it available to pull up when needed.

When I’m working in a fantasy world or on an alien planet, I need to do a lot of world building. I make maps. I work out a system of magic in the case of a fantasy world. For science fiction I look up and work out characteristics of the world determined by the planet’s size, distance from its sun, land masses, oceans, etc. Does it have a moon? Several moons? How does it/do they affect the planet? climate. weather systems. And so on.

For my Arucadi series I have a detailed file on the world and the country. (Someone asked why the world has only one continent. I never said it did. It doesn’t. There are other continents and there are island chains. But Arucadi is, like Australia, a nation that occupies an entire continent and, while it has trade via ship with other lands, it is large enough to be fairly self-sufficient and peaceful.) I had to work out a political system, economics, religion, political divisions: provinces, regions, etc. What is the economy based on? What are the major sources of revenue? What is the monetary system? Educational system? culture? (art, literature, music, etc.) Again, I don’t put all that into one novel or into the series. But I need to have it ready to call on as needed.

And character development. Once I know who the characters are, I want to know all I can about the principal characters. What their background is, what problems they have, what strengths and weaknesses, who their friends are; their enemies. What their home and family life is like. What their level of education is. What their likes and dislikes are. What kind of clothes do they wear? How do they wear their hair? What foods do they eat? And much more. Most importantly, why do they matter?

So this is the other side of the equation. A lot of preparation, a lot of research, a lot of logical thinking that go into constructing the framework for those crazy ideas. If the equation isn’t balanced, the novel won’t work.

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About E. Rose Sabin

Fantasy and science fiction author.
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