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World building with a partner
KJ Bledsoe
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 4:44 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 11

I have a friend who is brilliant at world-building. She's got three or four distinct, incredibly detailed worlds that stand out vividly in my mind -- even though she's never written anything for some of them. She enjoys the world-building and character development, and she'll sometimes write vignettes, but that's about it. She has no desire at all to ever be a published author (despite the fact that she has the skill to do so). For her, it's just a fun way to occupy her mind.

World-building isn't as much my skill. I focus more on plots and relationships, and don't care as much about what the world those characters are in looks or feels like. I certainly don't build hundreds of years of history. (The fact that history was always my worst subject in school might be connected to that.)

A few years ago, someone suggested, "Why not play to both of your strengths?" That is, let my friend develop the world and me write a plot using that world. What a brilliant idea! One of the novels I now have in process is based in one of my friend's worlds. I took it 100 years into the future and developed my own characters, and in the process of writing I've expanded on the world's details a bit -- but it's very much using the same family and magical system my friend came up with. And that's something I never would have come up with on my own.

While I wonder if this will cause trouble if I ever try to get the novel published (we both acknowledge that it's still her world, but the story is entirely mine), it's really been a great way to work. Having that world there to work with, and having someone to bounce ideas and ask questions about it, helped immensely.

Has anyone else worked with a partner in this way? Where only one person does the writing, but the world itself belongs mostly to the other partner?
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 9:52 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61

I gave it a try once with one of my better friends (at the time - we've drifted apart these past three years), but it didn't work out. My desire for certain things to conform to the character or story didn't meld with her vision for the world. I wanted the story to dictate the world, and she wanted a world in which the story could take place. Different ways of thinking about the process.
J Boone Dryden
Posted: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 1:29 PM
Joined: 5/7/2011
Posts: 42

I have worked a few times with collaborative world-building projects. I think they're a great way to really bolster a project that might otherwise lack if it's taken on by just one person.

For example, I had a multi-writer project based on another planet with each writer taking on the persona of a single character, with each "chapter" written from that's character's perspective. It's started a couple of times and faltered (mostly because of a lack of time or dedication), but I don't think I could do the story justice writing it all myself. The world is mine, but uniqueness of the story comes in the way in which it's told, and I don't think I could write that many different character voices in one story -- and make it sound genuine.

That's probably the most complex collaborative project I've done. I have a few others that I've done, though, and while I tend to be a bit more like Alex's friend (I like the world to come first), I am always open for flexibility, especially when it comes to creative works. Mostly I just like to be a part of the process.

As a side note, one of my favorites fantasy series is "The Death Gate Cycle" by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I'm fairly certain they work in such a way that one creates and one writes. It's a good project and a solid series.

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