Friday, February 10, 2012

Robots, Zeppelin's, and World Building, oh my!

We were talking about the characters in my current story-in-progress while at the dinner table recently. My son, who I think should have said "robots" as his first word instead of "fish" since he loves them so much (unless of course he meant clockwork fish which would entirely make sense) anyway, his eyes lit up at the subject of designing a metal man. Because, as we all agreed, how can you know what a character looks like if you don't have a good picture in mind?

I know many authors use celebrity photos as a source of inspiration for the physical look of their characters, but in the case of a Steampunk story, there aren't many gentleman walking around (or any) who have brass rivets and metal skin to use as a model for a romantic hero. So, here we go then. World building.

I love world building. It is just so exciting to think up different ideas for "how things work" and research the snot out of sometimes obscure subjects that I would never have come across had I not been inclined to inquire about them in the process of creating the foundation of a story. Yes, it takes a long time to gather all your facts, and, yes, it can be frustrating sometimes when certain elements don't fit together as well as you would have liked, but lets face it, anything worth doing, is worth doing well, and that includes world building.

So what does a metal man look like, whose innerds are made of clockwork gears and steam powered gadgetry?

Well, my son grabbed his pencils and paper and came up with this design:

A "hex" apparently is the charm which makes the automaton alive, and I love the brain cable which travels the whole way through so the metal man can move. He really put a lot of thought into how it might all work.
And then because he was still so excited, he drew a few airship design as well, including, of course, lots of active guns, and the puff-puff of a steam engine.

Who could not love such enthusiasm? I am wondering if my love of world building isn't just an adult version of the same creative fantasy we enjoy as a child. Because my eyes shine like my son's do when he gets inspired to draw, and my heart races as I settle at the keyboard to jot down my notes.

So, how far would you go in the creation of a story-world? How much detail do you think is necessary to make a fantasy world believable?

For my part, I have spent well over a year researching, amongst other things, automatons, armor, steam powered propulsion, alchemy, Victorian society, gemology, and of course dirigibles...and as much as I have discovered and used to mold the aspects of my story together, it never feels I know enough.

By the way, if you ever wanted to know what the inside of a real dirigible looks like and know some useful facts about their travel applications, an amazing book I found in my Internet travels is called, Zeppelin; the story of a great achievement (c1922) and it can be downloaded for free here: 

Do you think there there can be "too much" when it comes to researching for a book concept? Or is knowing your subject in depth the key to a well built world?


  1. Hm. Can there be too much research? Hm. I think it's pretty easy as an author to use research as a way to procrastinate (guilty as charged). But I don't think you can be too much of an expert at anything.

  2. Hm, I suppose there has to be a line drawn at some point, and the information gathered put into play in a timely manner, or else what's the point of all the research? But I agree, the more you know a subject, the more well-rounded a book will be.

    Thanks for stopping by!