Building the world of Krymzyn was one of the most exciting but also more challenging aspects of writing this novel. Not challenging because I don’t know the world inside and out. I spent countless hours wandering through Krymzyn, getting to know every detail of the landscape and every person living there.
The real challenge is showing the reader the world in a way that they see what the protagonist Chase sees and feels what he feels while being there without bogging the reader down in too much detail. My nature is to be highly organized, take things one step at a time, and I’m extremely detail oriented (translation, I have mild OCD). That’s not a joke. I get up from bed at least three times every night to check that the front door is still locked.
In my first draft of this novel, I began by building the world of Krymzyn and then told the story. That’s fine in early drafts, but It doesn’t work in the end. In fact, it’s just boring to the reader and I’d risk losing them by the second chapter.
I had to slash and burn over ten thousand “world building” words between drafts two and three that did little for the story. I next had to complete quite a bit of restructuring, incorporating important aspects of the world directly into the storytelling. While I wanted to know the exact number of blades of grass in every meadow, the precise dimensions of Sash’s cavern, and where every tree and plant was located on the two-hundred-square-mile Delta of Krymzyn, that really wasn’t needed for the reader. Anything that didn’t further the story and characters or was just extraneous detail really had to be cut from the manuscript.
Strangely, the first aspect to the world I created in Krymzyn had nothing to do with its physical characteristics. I started by defining the emotional spectrum of the people who live there. The seemingly narrow range of emotion in the people of Krymzyn is really critical to the story.
After the emotional range of the people in Krymzyn was established, I could then move on to the physical characteristics of the world. These may appear relatively random early in the story, but they prove to all have a very good reason to be the way they are. A fantasy world can’t just be different from the world we live in for the sake of being different. The world needs to evolve through the course of the story into something cohesive with valid reasons to be the way it is.
When we finally reach the protagonist’s moment of enlightenment in the novel, the “gotcha moment,” everything should come together in a sudden, complete understanding by the reader. This was confirmed by beta readers and my wonderful editor, Mickey Reed, when they all had the same reaction to that moment in the book: “It all makes total sense now!”
In the final manuscript, twenty-five percent of the actual world building is done in the prologue of the novel, all through Sash’s “Ritual of Purpose.” There’s very little excess description, just what’s needed to set the scene, further the action, and get a very good sense of who Sash is as a person.
Another twenty-five percent is done in just a few paragraphs during Chase’s first visit, when he initially meets Sash, learns a little about why he’s there, and finds out what happens when “Darkness” falls. I tried very hard to never “tell” the reader about the world, attempting to always “show” through action.
By the end of chapter two, my goal is that the reader not only is hooked on the story and characters, but also has a very good sense of what the world looks like, how people behave there, and, more importantly, how it feels to be in Krymzyn. The rest of the world building occurs gradually throughout the story, in small doses when needed.
As the series progresses, the world will be expanded. We’ll learn more about the Barrens and the Infinite Expanse. The Serquatine we meet in the first book will be prominently featured in book two, and new creatures will be introduced as we meet the other Guardians of the gateways. The world will continue to develop in ensuing books until we learn exactly what Krymzyn is and discover why the world and creatures exist the way they do. Most of all, we’ll understand why Chase and Sash were brought together in this world.