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If Being God Doesn’t Exhaust You, You’re Doing it Wrong! — Part 1

Memories and insights from my 7-month stint as God, colloquially referred to as “World-Building.”

“nebula in galaxy” by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Christians believe that God created everything, and man and woman are all made in God’s image. This, of course, includes God’s penchant to conceive and create. By that logic, I figured that if God can create everything out of nothing, and I’m made in His likeness, then it was my turn to take a whole bunch of nothing and use it to create my own version of everything. It was time to build the setting for my novel — an entire, freaking world!

Of course, I could have just set the story in the present-day real world. But the plot concept that I had come up with would not have fit properly in our world at any point in history. I took to my laptop and did a bit of reading and digging to discover that the best approach for the story I had in mind was a dystopian setting. “Dystopian world from scratch it is!” I said, closing the laptop and returning to the blank poster board on my bedroom wall.

I decided to start off easy with some potential names. Taking my pen to the pad of sticky notes, I started writing various names for this new world. I wound up with eleven names, all stuck to the wall above my blank poster board: Syngiiv, Elco, Archa, Eden, Nol, Chall, Pata, Peldo, The Twelfth Oasis, Zica, and Gova. I stood with my hands on my hips, reading the names over and over. I knew I wasn’t going to decide on one right away. But at least I felt like I was off to a good start.

World-building Insight 1: Before government, history, and culture, there is the land on which they are all built upon. It was there first! Start there!

“green grass field on mountain cliff near shoreline during daytime” by Thibault Mokuenko on Unsplash

I decided to move on to the lay of the land. This part proved a bit challenging, as I needed the geography of this new world to flow and make sense. Forests, hills, rivers, lakes, open plains— all of it was meticulously sketched out over the course of the next several days. This process reminded me of the time I spent on One Summer; the old pattern of sleep, peppered with off-rhythms of sleeping, eating, and bathing. Working a full-time job was now thrown into the mix, though. But that barely did anything to deter the drive to create.

Once I had the natural in place, it was much easier to create the artificial. Borders, towns, cities, attractions, and ideas for landmarks were placed on my map. During this step, I made some tweaks to the geographical layout; especially when it came time to figure out where all the farmland went. I found that doing it this way felt much more thorough and effective than laying the natural and artificial at the same time. It still, however, took me several days to complete this part. About nine days were spent on the map alone.

Mind you, while going through this step, I had not even mapped out any of the plot of the story yet; I only had rough ideas. I knew for a fact that this initial draft of the map was not going to be the end-all-be-all; that additions and subtractions would be made as I outlined the plot, characters, and story. Of course, that would all come later.

World-Building Insight 2: “Fanda” is more pleasant to read and write than “Zantxangix.” So, for the love of all that’s good, keep fictional location names simple! After all, you might be typing it a lot!

“close-up photography of map” by Stephen Monroe on Unsplash

Next up was naming the bordered regions and possibly narrowing down my potential names for this world. I carefully and again looked at the sticky-noted names. Reaching up, I pulled down Archa, Zica, Pata, and Gova. Something felt right about the pattern of these simple names all ending with “A.” So right, in fact, that I quickly decided to come up with seven more names just like it: Binda, Cora, Doma, Fanda, Exta, Terra, and Lucra. I became genuinely excited about this list of names, taking it right to the map and assigning each of the bordered regions one of these names. Once I was satisfied, I looked to the sticky notes of remaining names for the world. Within the next ten seconds, I removed Syngiiv and The Twelfth Oasis, crumpled them up and tossed them aimlessly behind me.

World-Building Insight 3: On the fourth day, God created the calendar. That’s paraphrased, of course. But you should still pay it mind!

“solar eclipse” by Celso on Unsplash

Next, I took my plot’s concept and wondered if the world’s calendar, climate, or seasons would play any factor into it. As it turned out, keeping track of the dates, times, and seasons was quite relevant. Thus, determining this new world’s calendar and climate structure was the next logical step. For this, I resorted to the old “write what you know” mentality. I decided on a single sun, a single moon, four distinct seasons, 365-day years divided into 12 months. I made a key set of changes, however. All months in this world are 30 days, which covers 360 of the days. The other 5 days are divided into 2 holiday times that are not marked on their calendars. Months 1–3 are spring; 4–6 are summer; 7–9 are autumn, and 10–12 are winter.

I had written all of this down as I thought of it. Looking it over again, I felt like it was cheating a little bit since I was, in essence, just copy/pasting the real-world calendar and throwing in my compulsive need for things to be equal and organized. But the more I thought about my central plot idea, and how this calendar structure would be relevant to it, it gave me peace of mind that I decided to take the time to write it all out.

World-Building Insight 4: Creating mankind is one thing. Creating what mankind does is a completely different animal. Don’t convince yourself you have to do it alone.

“photo of three person sitting and talking” by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

I had a world, some named regions, and a calendar. And this was just the first two weeks! Now that I had something on paper related to their culture and society — the 5 days of holiday — it was time to determine exactly what those holidays were. “These could pretty much be anything.” I thought to myself.

It was finally time to start creating the people, culture, and society. I took my pen to a blank piece of notebook paper and started writing down every single thing I thought of that factors into everyday society. This list was almost three, 3-column pages long. Topics ranged from the obvious “electricity” and “transportation,” to the more obscure “domesticated animals” and “fishing,” to the even more obscure “handling debt” and “waste disposal.”

I read the list over twice, with a shudder rocking my chest somewhere in the middle of the 2nd page on the second pass. I closed my eyes with a deflated sigh. “There is no way I’m going to be able to do this on my own. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.”

The next day, after having had knocked out the first seven items on the list, I knew I had to set my pride to the side and get a few more brains to help me craft this new world. I picked up my phone and prepared to rally my crew.

My good friend, who knew I had taken on a world-building endeavor, picked up on the first ring. After a long breath out, I said to him. “God did it in six days. It’s been almost three weeks for me, and I’m clearly not God. You think we can get the crew over here to my place tonight?”

To which he replied, chuckling, “To be honest, we were waiting for this!”

(To Be Continued)



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