On worldbuilding and bandits

Beehive Inn
The Beehive Inn, Edinburgh

So, despite a badly bruised ankle that meant I could only hobble around*, we spent a chunk of a rainy Sunday sitting in The Beehive Inn and, in between a very good halloumi & chips and a roast dinner, did some worldbuilding for the GreenSky series.

My current story, Golden Trust & Treasure, is about a reluctant surveyor in the desert. I’ve now got to the point where I’m filling in chapters, and previously I’d put ‘bandit attack!’ as the description for one. “Yeah, that’d make a good chapter! Let’s do that later!” But now I have to write it…and I’m crap at action. Ho hum.

Enter my two resident troublemakers and a whole bunch of questions! Essentially, what they wanted to know boiled down to the W’s: where, who, what, why and how.

Scribbled-mapWhere involved a scribbled map, trying to explain the geographical layout, and did also feed into why. Where is Haller being sent to survey – in itself, quite explicable – but also where are the bandits? And why are they there? What’s the benefit of that territory? Why has no-one cleared them out? How can they survive in the mountain desert territory?

Who is both the bandits and Haller, so are the bandits organised? Are they after Haller himself (unlikely) or the caravans – in which case, what are the caravans carrying? How many of them are there? What type of people are they?

And also the caravans…are they composed of people, wagons, animals, powered vehicles? How do the trade routes around the world work? (Hence some of the scribbled lines on the map). What technology do the various areas have? Even if they have technology – coal or clockwork to power their vehicles – would it reach that far across the desert? After all, if you can’t use your power then you’re better off not having it. If that’s the case, then what are the caravans travelling for?

And then, specifically for the scene, what happens? With a particular set-up, what’s the likely course of events? What does that say about the caravans and Haller and the bandits? What would make a better story? What would make a better series of events for the ongoing story? Do we need ongoing effects or just a one-off incident to prove a point or emphasise a particular thing?

And now I have lots of ideas! But I do still have to sit down and write the damn thing. Ho hum.

*I’ve bruised it somehow and couldn’t put much weight on it. Jokes have been made about beating too many people up…

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.