Worldbuilding is important even if you are just writing about the small American town you live in. It is not a good place to be in the middle of a magic fight scene and then stop because suddenly you are questioning yourself with things like – “How does this magic work, and what should I be doing with this scene?” Many people are taken back when out of the blue they realize they have questions like: “Are there laws about this?” “How long does it take to heal a broken bone?” which could be integral to your timeline, and “How does this school idea work in real time?”.
It’s never fun to be midway through your NaNoWriMo word count and realize you do not know how this thing you are writing about actually works. It could be the rules of your own magic system or just trying to remember what grade your character should be in. Now you have to brainstorm or pull up Google to figure out what is taught in 5th grade and if your character is actually in 5th grade at all.
With this new block, you can say goodbye to the decent flow you had managed to build up over the last few hours as you battle your way through – what do I do next?
It is important for you to know that making things up is not always a good idea either as the writers of Jurassic World 2 can tell you. Many people found it funny that live dinosaurs are apparently cheaper than fighter jets, Superbowl ads, their own fossils, and the cost of making CGI dinosaurs. It’s not great that in a movie that has a lot of bits people make fun of, like how nonlethal the unnaturally fast lava in that world is, that it turns out to be the price of your dinosaurs that people cannot let go of.
Here are a few examples of things you should know, and whenever you will have to research them or whether or not you just make it all up:
- The cost of characters using their powers
- The hierarchy of legal and illegal organizations
- The pseudoscience of your Scifi machines
- Proper procedures for reporting misdeeds and crimes, whenever to HR or to the police
- The monetary value of important plot-relevant items (do not be Jurassic World)
- Relevant scientific details of uncommon occurrences
- Laws your characters might encounter or try to break
- How weapons are to be used or the effects of using them (remember guns have blowback)
- Healing time of medical maladies and injuries
- Drug side effects, illegal and prescription
- Symptoms of chronic illnesses, physical and mental
- Local culture habits, slang, and locations
- Myths and legends, for inspiration and plot
- Historical events and individuals
To give you a brief idea of how varied your research topics can be, let me share some scenarios I have found myself researching in the past – from the introduction ceremonies of the Triad, to various creation myths, and historical poets’ lives and works. Be prepared to end up googling anything. When it comes to things I have had to come up with, it can be weirder.
I am also not saying you need to become an expert on any of these topics, you do not even need to know them that well or even off the top of your head. Simply start by keeping an organized document or a bookmarks file. This can be filled with relevant snippets, articles, notes, and details that you may need is the most you should have to do this Preptober.
The most important thing is that it does not cut into your creative writing time by forcing you to spend additional time researching and brainstorming instead of writing you will be focused on during the time-sensitive event of NaNoWriMo.
I encourage you to share what you are researching with the hashtags #preptober2020 and #WiseWordsPreptober over on Twitter! Remember to keep an eye on the Preptober & Nanowrimo category for the 5th and final part of this Preptober series!