The Research Whore's Guide to World Building

Today I'd like to welcome my guest, Maria Zannini, the author of the wonderful Touch of Fire. She describes herself as writing spicy Science Fiction and Fantasy that titillate some and torment others and she's dead right on that score *g* So without any more intro I'll hand over to Maria ...


Those of you who know me, know my terrible secret.

I am a research whore.

I tried to stop several times, but the lure of old books, dusty libraries, and websites that only the insane and the peculiar visit is like crack to someone like me. A little research is never enough--not when you're a writer.

And when you write about stuff that hasn't happened yet, you have to rely on that research along with a veritable highway of extrapolation.

For TOUCH OF FIRE, I decided to write about Earth 1200 years after an apocalypse. Here's a little of what I found out.

• It will take Styrofoam fifty years to decompose in a landfill.
• Recycled plastics will last at least 1000 years, maybe more if it's not in direct sunlight.
• Iron, especially iron that has been reinforced or coated may survive (in chunks) at least as long as plastic.
• Rock. The Pyramids, anyone? They've lasted at least 5000 years. And if you are a cynic like me, it's possible they are even older than that.
• Paper? We still have plenty of parchments from over a thousand years ago and the writing on papyrus scrolls is still legible. Fragile, but still with us.

I took many of my cues from existing artifacts and littered them throughout my novel. I also speculated on sociological changes. What would happen if some cataclysmic event wiped out the majority of civilization? What would the survivors remember? What truths would they keep alive? What would they get wrong?

After a thousand years, the imposing carved faces of Mount Rushmore still exist, but any record of who they were was lost long ago. They had to be important men to warrant such majestic honor. And they surely existed before the great cataclysm of ancient times for no living soul remembers their story. What else could you call these stone sentinels but 'The Four Warlords of the Apocalypse'?

Arizona, its name lost in history became Arrow's Onus. With only a fragile memory of what it was once called, the whispered name got stuck in their generational subconscious. Like a child trying to form words, they reconstituted its essence into something that had more meaning.

Even Mickey Mouse makes an appearance in the book. Apparently, in the future he's still greatly revered as a bit of a deity.

Disney would be proud.

When it comes to world building, magic also has to be based on some accepted truths that will lend credence to your lie. In TOF, there's an entire race of magical people called the Elementals, witches who can control one of the four elements: earth, air, water and fire.

But is it magic?

It's a safe bet that nothing in my world can be taken at face value.

I used just enough detail from known Wiccan practices and combined them with science, and a heart-healthy dose of artistic license. My goal was to give it the flavor of magic without all the calories.

Good world building is all about the details, both what you put in--and what you leave out.

My recipe is simple. Use enough core material (some people call them facts) to make the world plausible and true, then tweak its nose 90 degrees.

Works every time.


Touch Of Fire hits bookstores on April 28. Find it at:
Barnes & Nobles

Read an excerpt of TOUCH OF FIRE.
Visit me on my website, blog or Twitter.

Feeling lucky? Go here for details on how to win a prize package worth $100.

Thanks so much for having me over, Suzanne! There's a big ol' Texas welcome waiting for you if you ever make it across the pond to see me. But be careful for Tank. He's a sloppy kisser. And he loves the wimmin folk.


Thanks for such a great blog, Maria, and everyone, head on over to Maria's to checkout her great contest - here :-)


J.K. Coi said...

Hi Suzanne and Maria!
Maria, you have an awesome world in Touch of Fire. I loved how you put it together.

I keep my own world as close to our real one as I can, since I don't want to make things too complicated--for myself as well as the reader.

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, JK!

My husband thinks I have my foot in two worlds. The one he lives in and the one he'd like to be in. :o)

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