Tuesday, January 09, 2007

World Building Part 3

After identifying your world’s origin and building its physical structure, it’s time to think about life. What kind of life exists in your world? Leave out the dominating species for now. They’ll come into play later.

Given the physical state of the world, peer at each climate and identify what organisms inhabit it. If it’s water, think about the fish or other aquatic animals that swim or lurk about. For land, imagine the plants, animals and insects interacting with one another.

I strongly advise against recreating every living thing on Earth in a new way. If your world is close enough to ours that it supports very similar species of plants, animals and insects, why do you want to teach your readers a course on biology based around this new set of creatures? Stick with the same animals we have in our world and maybe add a couple more just for fun. I can remember the names of a few new critters, but if you pelt me with a grocery list of animals that one of your characters discovers, I won’t remember any of them. One exception (and even then it’s best to limit how many species are introduced) is if you don’t want the reader to think of Earth in the least way.

Perhaps microorganisms also play a role in your world, and if so, have fun creating all of that. I know very little in the field of biology, especially microbiology, so I have little to contribute on the subject. If microorganisms aren’t essential in your story (or stories), however, I wouldn’t give them a second thought.

How much you want to identify predators, prey and the interaction of all life forms is up to you. It’s simply a matter of plausibility. The excuse of, “But it’s fantasy!” only goes so far. There has to be some give and take with your readers. If you don’t explain how 200,000 lions live on an island without any other visible sources of food, your story might come across as weak. At least give us a clue about those lions because that’s going to bother some of us. Having a character stumble across empty cans of tuna on the island would at least present a different dilemma.

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