Friday, July 25, 2014

World Building- guest post

World Building with Melisse

I have new re-release of a book that is the start of a trilogy. I call it a steampunk spacewestern, and the world building got pretty elaborate. I thought I would share a little of my process.

In the initial stages of world building I make big picture decisions. I decide what I’m writing—paranormal romance? Science fiction? I write speculative romance fiction, but even in a contemporary setting you develop a world. Robin Carr’s Virgin River series has a very detailed setting and is a world full of wounded vets and hard working medical personnel.

 I decided I was mixing up subgenres with this story--a space frontier with a western pioneer feel, with space ships and tiny colonies on far flung planets. I decided both supernatural and paranormal elements would exist in that world. Overarching it all I have the background of a Terran Diaspora, of lawless places, of a recent war over slavery, of places where women are exploited and ‘might makes right’.

From the big picture I then have different settings. One setting is a mining camp under a bubble on an asteroid, another, a utilitarian space ship, old but well maintained. Later they journey to a green planet, with evergreen trees and snow. A log lodge is reached by small dirigibles ships.

I'm a visual writer, I see pictures in my mind. So as I start a new project I look for graphics to put in my file, pictures that invoke something of what I see internally, or pictures that inspire. I usually look at celebrity pictures because it is easy to find several facial expressions of the same person. For geographic graphics, I search wallpaper sites and graphic artist sites for fantasy and scifi pictures.

 I use a writing software program called Scrivener, which has a virtual corkboard for graphics and notes. I write on a split screen, with the corkboard always at hand. Since these pictures are only seen by me, I am free to download anything that inspires me.

For Starlander’s Myth I have actresses from old Western movies, Firefly and Serenity pictures, gas clouds in space, a Victorian little girl with ringlets, and Anne Gedde’s photo of a baby with butterfly wings.

Then I make lists to keep on my Scrivener corkboard: place names, people names, thing names. I might make a little map to remind me where places are in my fictional world. I put those in Scrivener under RESEARCH. I find lists are really helpful when everything is made up. Is that mineral called crist or cryst? Did they live on Charity Wells or Charity Falls? It is much less frustrating to have the answer a click away rather than searching through half your work in progress. Especially helpful if you make up alien language words that are easy to misspell. In that Krzsch or Krzsh?

Make sure you add those new words to your dictionary!

Some other things I did for world building—read some westerns for dialog. The TV show Firefly was great for that. Lonesome Dove, too. I wanted an older feel to the dialog. I also listened to music, fiddles, Stephen Foster—Here’s one of my all time favorite songs:  that I listened to while writing. (Iron and Wine has a fabulous version of this) Hard Times Come Again No More, Stephen Foster, 1854.

~ Melisse Aires

Coming this weekend to Amazon: Starlander’s Myth
Click image to buy




Asteroid miner Jack Starlander stumbles upon the illegal sale of a woman and child with unusual abilities. Jack once fought to free slaves and can't abide slavers. In the ensuing shoot out, two important men die. Jack, Sophie and her daughter and Jack's close neighbors are forced to flee to safety. Their journey takes them into deadly danger.

An Antiquarian with her own ancient secret, Sophie knows old stories may seem fantastical but have core of truth. She recognizes the mythic thread in the old Starlander legend. Perhaps his family's myth can save them.


  1. I don't often resort to pictures, but I do write a lot of details down.
    Your setting and genre reminds me of Firefly, so that's a good thing.

  2. What an attractive blog you have! Thanks for hosting me, Summer.

    Alex--yes, I was inspired by Firefly! Also re-watched the show for the dialog. Also loved the Elizabeth Peter's Victorian mysteries set in Egypt, so that made a neo-Victorian setting seem 'real' to me. Lol, write what you know, they say!

  3. Congratulations to Melisse! I love world building. Firefly is a great inspiration. I've done a few short stories based on worlds similar to that.


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