World Building and Big Cities/Small Communities

Hello writing friends! I hope you are well on this last day of August. I don’t know about you, but I can already tell that the northern hemisphere has already taken a big lean toward fall. Labor Day Weekend is one of the saddest of the year for me because it signals the end of summer, my favorite season. I thrive in the sticky summer nights (especially with a cool breeze), the longer days and I live for the feeling of the warm sun on my skin.

Here in “flyover country,” we have so many experiences that other places around our nation just can’t compare. I’m sure everyone feels like that about their hometown. But truly, there is nothing like a prairie storm. I don’t actually live on the prairie, but that’s what I’ve always called them. The thunderstorms here can be epic with lightning crackling across the sky from horizon to horizon and thunder so loud that it rattles the windows and your whole house! I’ve been in thunderstorms in other places, but they never have equaled the massive crashing that makes you sit bolt upright out of sleep that I’ve experienced here. The dogs howl. My heart beats fast and the house rattles with the rumbling and you think the world is crashing in on you.

When I am plotting a story and creating a new world, I always bear these sensations and the different environments I’ve had the luck to experience in mind. The weather and how you experience it can definitely be influenced by the other pieces of your microcosm/macrocosm. Not only this, but weather patterns themselves are different because of temperatures. In the city, there is a lesser likelihood that there will be a tornado touching down because it’s too warm. All that concrete holds in heat and raises the temperature. When you get farther away from downtown and into the suburbs and then the rural areas, that’s when you’re more likely to experience a tornado.

I think this sort of information is important because when you are world-building, you  want to keep physics and science in mind, even if you’re working in a world that doesn’t have concrete. Having rules within which to ground your story and your world is essential to success.

Having been lucky enough to travel and live in different places, I can also take these experiences and compare life to a wider open place like KC and a more dense city with higher buildings, and also the rural spaces as well. All of these will affect your character’s experiences, both on the microcosm level and at the macro level too.

For example, a character in a big city with their view obstructed by large buildings will have a more limited experience when it comes to weather or other natural elements than a character in a more rural setting. What immediately comes to mind is the sensation I had while living in NYC. I spent the summer of 2008 in New York attending the Summer Publishing Institute at NYU. I lived in the heart of the city in Greenwich Village for about 6 weeks. As I wandered the city, the things I was most struck by were: The number of people my age around (KC wasn’t really known for its 20-something population back then); public transportation; and the lack of greenery (yes, there’s Central Park and Bryant Park and others, but coming from suburbia in Kansas City, you’re just not prepared for the concrete world that is New York! I distinctly remember flying home and being overwhelmed by the abundance of green I saw from the sky as we prepared to land in KC and how much I missed seeing the green.)

When it comes to world-building, you could probably spend forever thinking about all the little elements that affect the immediate environment and the wider world in which your characters live. Utilizing the world as you’ve experienced it is a great way to get inspired by different sensations and experiences that you don’t typically notice as you go about your daily life.

World-building should be a fun experience. It’s a time to be exceptionally creative and imaginative. And, the better job you do up front, the more believable your story will be and the more easily the writing will come to you because you have a framework within which to work.